How To Avoid Animal Rescue Volunteer Burnout



avoid volunteer burnout, animal rescue volunteer

“I’m so tired and sad. I work long hours taking care of the animals, and it seems like I never help them all. I love what I do, but sometimes it gets to be too much.”

“There are days I just want to call it quits. The number of pet owners who have no problem dumping their unwanted pets on me seems to grow by the day. It’s so discouraging that I don’t think I can do it anymore.”

“My bills are past due and there’s hardly any food in the fridge. All of my money and time goes toward taking care of all these dogs. I just don’t know how long I can keep doing this.”

If any of these statements sounds familiar, take heart – you’re not alone. Being an animal rescue volunteer or an animal shelter volunteer takes a special kind of person, and even for that special person, it can be quite an overwhelming undertaking, both financially and emotionally. What sometimes feels like a thankless job is actually quite the opposite, and you know it. However, it can be difficult sometimes to see the benefits of your time, effort and love. When times like that arise, use the following tips to get yourself back on track.

Top Tips on how to prevent Animal Rescue/Adoption Volunteer Burnout

  1. Take care of yourself first – You can’t be of service to anyone or anything if you aren’t happy and healthy yourself.
  2. Take stock of what you want – Take a look at the things you’ve accomplished and what you hope to accomplish. Make a list. Are the most important things near the top and getting the majority of your attention? If not, it may be time to rearrange your time and focus so they are.
  3. Do something besides rescue work – What activities do you enjoy outside of rescue work? Do you, or did you, have hobbies? Make another list that includes all the things you like to do and make sure you do one thing from that list every single day.
  4. Take one day a week for yourself – Everyone deserves a day off, and so do you. Take one day a week to do something you want or need to do that doesn’t involve rescue work in any way.
  5. Stay connected – Sometimes rescue workers get so wrapped up in their work that they become isolated and disconnected from the “real” world. Make sure you’re spending time with friends, reading a good book or doing something that keeps you in the loop.
  6. Don’t forget your successes – Animal rescue is full of sad stories, but there are lots of happy endings, too. Keep a record of these successes and look over them often to renew your faith in what you’re doing and realize you are making a difference in the lives of the animals you care for.

avoid volunteer burnout, animal volunteer burnout

It can be hard to say no or take time for yourself. As a rescue worker and animal lover, you’re not wired that way. However, you do an important job and taking the time to ensure that you’re happy, healthy and love the work that you do is just as important. Unfortunately, animal rescue is an endless job – pet owners will never stop making demands of you and the animals will never stop coming in. The good news is, with these tips, you’ll avoid burnout and stay on the right track to help them all.

[Image 1: ThinkStock] [Image 2: Flickr]


WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.