Occupational Health of Animal Shelter Employees by Live Release Rate, Shelter Type, and Euthanasia-Related Decision

Allison Andrukonis, Alexandra Protopopova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Approximately a quarter of dogs and cats in animal shelters in the United States are euthanized. The stress associated with having to care for animals they subsequently euthanize puts animal shelter workers at a high risk for compassion fatigue, burnout, and even suicide. The aim of the present study was to assess the relationship between a shelter’s Live Release Rate (LRR; defined as the percent of animals that leave the animal shelter with a positive outcome) and the involvement in euthanasia-related decision-making on employees’ mental health. An online nationwide survey was administered to 153 municipal and private shelter workers consisting of the Impact of Event Scale-Revised, the Professional Quality of Life Questionnaire, the Moral Injury Event Scale, and questions relating to their work environment. A multivariate regression model found that compassion satisfaction (p < 0.00001), secondary traumatic stress (p = 0.008), moral injury (p = 0.037), and burnout (p = 0.002) were positively correlated with LRR. This suggests that although job satisfaction is greater in shelters with more positive outcomes, trauma may also be greater. A t-test revealed that employees who euthanize have higher moral injury scores compared with those who do not (t(152) = –2.96, p = 0.0036). A second multivariate regression model found that deciding which animal to euthanize predicted increased secondary traumatic stress (r(151) = –0.058, p = 0.016). Overall, the data show that LRR and decisions surrounding euthanasia play a role in occupational trauma; furthermore, the data provide support for further exploration of moral injury in animal shelter workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020


  • animal shelter
  • compassion fatigue
  • human–animal interaction
  • live release rate
  • moral injury


Dive into the research topics of 'Occupational Health of Animal Shelter Employees by Live Release Rate, Shelter Type, and Euthanasia-Related Decision'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this