Compassion fatigue is real and has devastating consequences

January 04, 2022

Founder and CEO, Samantha Green, discusses compassion fatigue and its impact on animal welfare professionals.

“Animal care professionals are some of the most pain-saturated people I have ever worked with. The very thing that makes them great at their work, their empathy and dedication and love for animals, makes them vulnerable.”

“Success stories are not always possible. This is often due to medical reasons, behavioural issues, or most tragically for rescue workers, a lack of space”

The above quotes are from Regina Lizik’s excellent blog about compassion fatigue in animal care workers.This post really resonated with me because every day, my inbox is full of people crying out for help. And I am not alone.

Animal welfare and the situation with rescue/rehoming groups is at crisis point here in Sri Lanka. As more and more people in Sri Lanka have access to the internet, more can reach out for help. Often, these cries for help land in the inboxes of the same few people and groups. But groups with space to take in dogs are full. The private boarding kennels they use are full. The vet kennels are full. Foster homes are full. 

These groups need practical help. 

They need funding, foster homes, adopters, veterinary professionals who want to work in their sector, and new and enforceable animal welfare laws. Vitally, we need to see a fundamental change in a society that expects a small group of underfunded and overworked people to address a national problem, often unpaid after a full days work elsewhere. 

What they don’t need is to be guilt tripped or be told that dogs are dying because they can not respond. 

The problem is not animal welfare groups.

Dogs are not dying because these groups are not responding. They are dying due to poor/no guardianship. They are dying because people don’t sterilise their dogs and dump unwanted puppies. They are dying because hotels and councils are moving unwanted dogs to new areas as part of ‘beautification schemes’. 

They are dying due to people valuing ‘pedigree’ dogs over Sri Lankan dogs and because low-welfare, backyard breeders are producing litter after litter with people queuing to buy them. They are dying because people don’t want to adopt a less than ‘perfect’ puppy that isn’t their desired colour. 

They are dying because we have a chronic shortage of quality vets here. This has only been made worse by a huge percentage of vets leaving the private sector in favour of government service desk jobs. The shortage has now reached crisis levels.

You can help...

You have the power to support these groups.

I know it hurts to see an animal suffering on the roadside. Or to see one hurt through a photo on the internet. Every single one of our animal welfare colleagues in Sri Lanka shares your pain, and most of us work outside of our day jobs totally unpaid to try and do something about it.

But when you see an animal suffering at home or abroad, please ask yourself what you can do to support the group you have just asked for help. You have the power to support these groups in so many ways. 

You can adopt, you can foster, you might be able to help transport the animal. Are you able to find a safe home or find a local vet and contact them directly? Can you take a dog food and medication daily? Can you fundraise? Can you campaign for important legal changes? 

Please remember that the people you talk to online are people just like you. They desperately want to help, but they are faced with a huge amount of messages about animals in distress. 

Our message today is to not forget to look after each other. Compassion fatigue is real and it can have devastating consequences. Remember, you are not helpless.Anything you can do to help is huge. 

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