Compassion Fatigue and Animal Rescue

Animal rescue is hard. Often people in animal rescue see and deal with the worst of humanity.

People involved in animal rescue are often faced with negative (and very often) unwarranted criticism over policies in place, hate thrown their way for decisions made, and in some cases, threats (against animals and towards those involved with rescue organizations).

Social media tends to amplify this.

Recently, a rescue got attacked and threatened online after euthanizing a dog that had attacked (unprovoked) four different trainers. The rescue was in a no-win situation – do they put down a dog they’re trying to rescue that has a history of biting its handlers, or adopt it out knowing there was a significant risk it will bite it’s new family? – and made the right choice in not adopting out that dog despite their best efforts.

Rescues have been accused of “stealing” animals. I have seen people go on to a rescue’s social media page to leave negative reviews and spread false information about that rescue.

I have seen rescues attack other rescue organizations for policies or being open and transparent about vet bills only to be called “irresponsible”. The adoption process in place “takes too long” and to some people “it’s easier to adopt a child” (even though that’s not even remotely true).

We waited months to adopt Dolly. It was worth the wait.

I have seen people say that a rescue “must be rich” when thanking donors for donations.

It should be no surprise that every once in a while, people in rescue reach a breaking point and feel the need to vent about situations online. That is usually when that rescue gets told from people to “stop being so negative” and “focus on educating instead of venting”.

This is where compassion fatigue comes in for people involved in rescue.

What is compassion fatigue?

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary describes compassion fatigue as “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time” and “apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance”.

Sounds a lot like being in animal rescue, doesn’t it?

What happens to people experiencing compassion fatigue?

Anger, sadness, anxiety, depression and in some cases, suicide.

I have seen people start in animal rescue because they want to help out animals go from being a consistently positive person to someone who lashes out online all of a sudden. I have seen people become so completely overwhelmed by everything they see and deal with that they need to go on medication and regularly see a therapist (which I personally do). I have seen people who had to walk away from animal rescue completely because it became too much for them (mentally, emotionally and physically).

There are many people in different professions and roles (such as caregivers) who experience compassion fatigue. And sadly, seeing constant awful news online doesn’t help with anything.

So what can you do if you are the one who might be experiencing compassion fatigue?

Reach out for help. Ask volunteers to help take on some of the tasks that you do (such as get someone else to manage social media for a bit). Remember, you can not do this alone or all by yourself, and a team effort is always more beneficial than trying to be a one person show.

This is a tough one to do but, take breaks. I realize it’s easier said than done but this is where asking for help comes in. Take a couple of days to yourself and only give your number to the volunteer(s) you put in charge for emergencies only. Log off of the social media accounts for a bit or as stated above, get another volunteer to run them for you.

Once again, easier said than done but, learn to say no. There is honestly only so much of yourself to give. If you are running on empty, how can you possibly help? There may come times where you need to take a step back and realize that you are running at capacity and can not take in any more animals. And that is ok! It’s better for a rescue to realize their limits than get completely overwhelmed.

I can not recommend talking to a therapist enough. Like anything, it could be trial and error to find a therapist who works for you, but I found it helpful to see a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioural therapy. And if you find you are still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for medication.

What advice can I give to people reading this who are not involved in animal rescue?

I ask that before you jump online to leave a rescue a one star review because you “never heard back from them”, or leave the director a threatening voice mail because we are full and have no foster home for the dog you are deciding to dump, take a step back. Think. And mostly, have compassion and empathy for those on the front lines of rescue. It’s not easy. And if you think it is, sign up and volunteer and see first hand what rescues deal with.

How You Can Help FARRM

Recently, an animal sanctuary just outside of Edmonton suffered an absolutely tragic event. FARRM (Farm Animal Rescue and Rehoming Movement) had fire that burned down their barn and tragically lost 11 of their animals.

FARRM has been through so much loss in the past few months including losing a sweet blind lamb by the name of Merlin and recently finding out their goat, Cooper, is quite ill. And now, they are dealing with the aftermath of the fire.

So what can you do to help this amazing organization? Donate. As of right now, FARRM needs all the financial help they can get as they not only need to eventually rebuild, but they need to be able to take care of the animals they currently have in care.

The link to donate directly to them can be found HERE.

Please be aware that this is the only legitimate place to donate to as they are not affiliated with any third party sites such a GoFundMe.

There is no amount too small. Every little bit counts towards helping them get back on their feet as they are needed in the community and do so much good.

So let’s work together in memory of Daisy, Mickey, Bear, Madoxx, Annabelle, Plummley, Missy, Diesel, Hamlet, Mortimer and every feral cat and rabbit lost.

Supporting Local and International Animal Rescue

Over the weekend, an account I follow on Instagram posted something something that both made me sad and quite angry. They adopted a dog from Thailand through the wonderful Soi Dog Foundation and were criticized for it. Some people made comments towards the dogs owner for “importing” a dog and felt the need to judge the owner by saying they “didn’t care about dogs here.”

This struck a bit of a personal chord with me. My dog Dolly was rescued from the illegal meat trade over in Thailand and was rescued thanks to Soi Dog. To insinuate that because I (and many other dog owners) have dog that was brought over to Canada from another country and say we don’t care about animals here is 100% false and considerably too black and white as to where we choose to spend our time, energy and money.

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I could not imagine having this girl in my life.


If you care about animals, why would you be upset about rescue organizations bringing animals to your country to give them a better life and to see them from horrific situations like the meat trade? A life saved is a life saved, regardless of geography.

Just recently, the Human Society International saved many dogs from the meat trade in South Korea and brought them to Canada. Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel rescued a dog from there last year and American skier Gus Kenworthy, just recently adopted a dog he met in South Korea. It was a wonderful story to know that these dogs are now safe and going to be going to their forever homes.

But not everyone was happy about the dogs coming here. Many people felt the need to comment by stating ” dogs die here in shelters everyday” and “we don’t need more dogs” among many other things.

Yes, sadly many animals are euthanized everyday in North America due to overcrowding as well as other issues with animal rescue, but does that mean we can’t and shouldn’t try and help all animals in need, regardless where in the world they’re located? The reason there are so many animals in shelters is because of many people who do not spay and neuter their pets (hence, overpopulation). Then there are people who get an animal and then dump there animal because they no longer want the animal. That is where education about the importance of spay and neutering comes in (including spay and neuter return programs which a so crucial to rural communities) and education about responsible pet ownership. This is why many rescues do intense screening processes as they do not want that animal to be returned, and most won’t adopt out an animal until they have been spayed or neutered.

There seems to be a ideology that because someone supports international animal rescue, they can’t possibly support local animal rescue. I’m not sure why there is that thought process or how it go started, but I’m here to hopefully shed some light.

You can support international animal rescue AND local rescue. The two are not mutually exclusive. Yes, Dolly is from Thailand but my other two were adopted from two local animal rescues here in Alberta. You can adopt from more than one rescue organization. You can financially donate to multiple animal rescues (I donate to Soi Dog and multiple local animal rescues). I also volunteer at a local animal rescue (which partnered with Soi Dog to bring Dolly to Canada to give her a better life).

Dolly when she arrived in Canada

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Dolly is now happy, healthy and safe

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All three of my rescue dogs living the good life

It’s much like saying that because I care about animal rescue I can’t possibly care about other causes such as mental health and addiction, domestic violence, poverty or racism. That would also be false. They are not mutually exclusive. I’ve worked at social service non profits, volunteered and donated to all the causes. Yes, I write about animal rescue but that does not mean I don’t or can’t care about other causes.

When it comes to animal adoption, those criticizing are forgetting one very important thing, at the end of the day a life is saved. Every time someone adopts, fosters or rescues an animal, that animal is being saved. They are being saved from being on the street. They are being saved from abuse and neglect. They are being saved from death (and in the case of Dolly and other meat trade survivors, a horrific death).

There’s already too much judgement in society, so why are we judging people who are trying to do good? So rather than try to point a finger at someone who is doing something to benefit an animal outside of our borders, ask yourself what you are doing to make a difference, either through adoption or donations. All rescues would appreciate more assistance, either through volunteer hours or financial donations.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

Animal Rescue Profile: Soi Dog Foundation

This month’s animal rescue profile is the Soi Dog Foundation.


Soi Dog is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  Based out of Phuket, Thailand, Soi Dog rescues street dogs and cats by providing them with shelter, vaccinations and medical treatment.  A main focus of the work is spaying and neutering as many animals as possible to help reduce the population of unwanted pets in Thailand.

Soi Dog’s most well known work is being advocates for animal welfare and have been one of the biggest forces behind almost eliminating the illegal meat trade of dogs in Thailand.  They continue to work tirelessly on also ending the barbaric slaughtering of dogs for meat in South Korea, Vietnam and China.

They save thousands of dogs destined to be tortured and killed every year in Thailand.  My dog, Dolly, was one of the dogs they saved.  She was living in a box and had a horrific fate awaiting her before Soi Dog rescued her.

Dolly on her way to Canada.

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Dolly now, happy, healthy and loving life.

Soi Dog can’t do the amazing rescue and advocacy work they do without support.  If you are interested in donating to Soi Dog, click HERE.

I will say that when I’m able to, I will adopt another dog from Soi Dog again.  Interested in adopting and how the process works, click HERE.

If you are interested in helping out Soi Dog, here are the ways you can do so:

Click HERE to volunteer at the shelter

Click HERE to be a flight volunteer

Click HERE to purchase Soi Dog Merchandise (I have two tank tops and the 2018 calendar)

Click HERE to donate medical supplies

Click HERE to sponsor an animal

Click HERE to Like them on Facebook

Click HERE to Follow them on Instagram

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When you support and organization like Soi Dog, you help dogs like Dolly get a second chance at life.

Animal Rescue Profile: Second Chance Animal Rescue Society

This month’s animal rescue profile is the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS).


SCARS is a shelterless, volunteer run animal rescue origination that takes in unwanted dogs and dogs that are to be euthanized in and around rural ares of Edmonton and gives them a second chance at life.  Many of the dogs rescued are from rural area pounds and veterinary clinics.  All dogs receive necessary behavioural and medical attention (including spay and neutering) and are placed with loving foster homes until they are ready for adoption.

SCARS believes that education is key to preventing overpopulation and promoting responsible pet ownership.  One of the ways they do this is by working with many northern rural Alberta communities and offer a spay and neuter return program.

With winter already here, SCARS is in desperate need of foster homes.  Without foster homes, they can’t take in animals who will not survive the harsh winter conditions.  If you are interested in fostering with SCARS, please click HERE.  If you want more information about fostering, please read my post called Fostering An Animal: What You Need to Know.

If you are interested in helping out SCARS, here are the ways you can do so:

Click HERE to Adopt (please note that they do not adopt out animals as gifts)

Click HERE to donate (a great last minute gift idea)

Click HERE to volunteer (they are offering a new volunteer orientation in the New Year)

Click HERE to shop

Click HERE to Like them on Facebook

Click HERE to Follow them on Instagram