Animal welfare workers must practice self-care

Animal welfare is one of the toughest jobs on the planet, demanding endless physical and emotional resources. These must be replenished, says Hannah Shaw, kitten rescuer and animal welfare educator. The welfare worker who neglects their own emotional needs risks burnout, and a burnt out welfare volunteer is of no help to the animals they’re trying to care for.

This is a recent post from Hannah’s instagram account, @kittenxlady.

“A life dedicated to animal welfare does come at the cost of exposure to suffering, and of changes in perspective which can make it difficult to live happily in a world where there is so much more suffering than any one person can possibly undo alone. I’m generally a very positive person but some days the task at hand feels like an impossible feat. The only path forward is through individual acts – and that is why it can be so hard to balance the desperate need for compassionate action with the very real need for self-care that makes us sustainable in those actions. I am a firm believer in speaking openly about the emotional experiences of animal advocacy and rescue, because our culture often (erroneously) rewards martyrdom and stoicism at the expense of our personal wellbeing .. which can only lead to burnout.

When we inevitably experience emotional exhaustion, we wonder if we are alone, and we often feel that we have no choice to power through silently. If that’s you, know that you are not alone. It is OK to cry and to speak openly when you are upset. In the last 3 days I have burst into tears in a barn, in an airport, in the lobby of a vet’s office and on my living room floor. It’s OK to feel the weight of it all. And when you do, it’s OK to take a moment to catch your breath. Animal advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint.” Hannah Shaw, kitten rescuer