by Leann Quire, Director of Shelter Operations, Humane Pennsylvania
“I don’t know how you do it.” “How do you not take them all home?” “I couldn’t work there, it would make me too sad.” These are common comments shelter staff hear when a family, friend, or even stranger finds out where they work. There are so many people who want to work with animals in shelters, but surprisingly a few actually know what it is like to work in an animal shelter.
Every shelter is different, but at Humane Pennsylvania if you are an Animal Care Technician or Adoption Counselor then you are working directly with the public to facilitate adoptions and assist with the intake of surrender and stray animals. The Adoption Counselors provide wonderful care to the clients and perform a plethora of administrative work to ensure paperwork is in order and our clients are getting the best experience. Our Animal Care Technicians consist of…
- Kennel Technicians
- Adoption Technicians
- Clinic Technicians
Each morning brings lots of cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. Our kennel technicians are busy throughout the day making sure the animals have a clean kennel to stay in, fresh food and water, and that surrounding areas are also clean to prevent spread of disease and make sure our public has a nice space to meet their future furry loves. Our Adoption Counselors are busy in the morning making sure our lobby is clean and ready for a new day of what we hope brings lots of adoptions. This, you probably knew though.
But, did you know our staff also assists our veterinarians to catch sicknesses and medical issues with the animals? How about actually medicating them? Maybe you thought that was our wonderful vet staff, but the day to day medical care of the shelter animals is usually performed by our shelter staff employees. A typical day for a clinic technician may involve entering veterinary exams, assisting with veterinary exams, administering medications, fluids and treatments, and counseling the public on what medications their new family member needs in order to go home.
The adoption technicians perform vaccinations at intake to prevent spread of disease and they also are in charge of reviewing intake notes and using their experience and training to identify any potential behavior or medical concerns. They are working with the animals to observe behavior information that will hopefully aid in better matchmaking.
Unfortunately euthanasia can also be a part of a shelter workers day. Our staff provide end of life services for the animals of owners who made the difficult decision that it is time. They also provide euthanasia for animals who are surrendered to the shelter and are sick and suffering or exhibiting dangerous behaviors. The staff goes through training to become compassionate and experienced euthanasia technicians so they can be a kind and calm presence. This skill, along with all of the other daily stresses the staff face can bring emotional and physical fatigue. It is an everyday reality that shelter staff burn out because, despite devoting their lives to helping animals, they sometimes cannot handle the secondary traumatic stress they are exposed to when frequently caring for animals who were abandoned, neglected, or need to be euthanized.
Our staff do it all.
- They are therapists who listen to the client who just had their 16 year old dog pass away and is heartbroken and unsure if they are ready to open their home again and need some advice.
- They are counselors and matchmakers working to pair the wonderful families in our communities with deserving animals looking for their forever home.
- They are nurses who have helped thousands of animals who were seriously ill to make a complete transformation and go to their new home, happy and healthy.
- They are dog trainers who teach the jumpy dog on the adoption floor how to “sit” so the potential adopter is impressed and invites Fido to come home with them.
- They are some of the strongest people I know because they work in an environment that pushes them to their emotional and physical limits and encourages them to develop the mental strength and health to continue working in the field.
I could go on, and on, and on. Basically, shelter workers are ever day rock stars. They work hard to give the animals who come through our door the love and care they deserve. Next time you wonder how a shelter staff member works where they do, know that it is because they wear an invisible cape and are driven from their internal passion to help the animals in your community, and I am sure they would love to hear, “I am SO glad you do what you do.” To learn more about the work and passion of our team, visit HumanePA.org.