Speaker: Debbie Stoewen

Engaging in psychologically stressful incidents such as animal abuse and neglect, hoarding, and mass depopulation (in relation to contagious disease outbreaks or a natural disaster) can exert a cost – the cost of caring. Compassion fatigue is the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help in the face of trauma, pain, and suffering, and occurs when the demands for caring exceed one’s ability and resources to provide that caring.

Compassion fatigue can affect anyone in the role of helper, healer, or rescuer, including those in the veterinary profession, animal welfare enforcement, the agricultural industry, and health and social services, including first responders. Some situations can present stressors beyond one’s personal and professional expertise and resources, making compassion fatigue and the inherent consequences a significant risk.

Understanding this risk is the first step. Making the daily commitment to choices that lead to resilience is the second. We can’t necessarily change the actualities or inevitabilities of animal abuse and neglect, hoarding, and need for depopulation, but we can change our response. This session looks at compassion fatigue from a contextualized perspective and offers ways in which to “sustain the heart” and “preserve the self” to best do what needs to be done at the intersection of human and animal welfare.