Compassion Fatigue Resources for Organizations

with Jessica Dolce, MS CCFE

Animal welfare work is deeply rewarding, but it can also come with high costs to those who provide such valuable services. Staff engaged in animal welfare work are particularly susceptible to secondary traumatic stress (STS) because of the vulnerable nature of the animals they care for, the high volume and unpredictable nature of their jobs, and a relative lack of psychological protection. This inevitably takes a toll on staff well-being and the organization’s ability to deliver high quality care and make an impact.

Staff self-care is a necessary component of increasing resilience and reducing the impact of trauma exposure, but not sufficient on its own.

Along with individual efforts, there must be organizational investments. There are a number of practices & policies organizations can implement, over time, to reduce occupational risk and promote staff resilience in order to create a healthier workplace.

Available Resources:

Assessment for Organizations

There are a number of practices & policies organizations can implement over time to reduce stress and distress and promote staff resilience.

The first step to create a healthier workplace? Take an assessment!

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Individual Assessments 

There are a variety of assessment tools for individual use. 

Below you'll find the Professional Quality of Life Evaluation, adapted for animal care work, and the ACEs Questionnaire for your personal use. 

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Adoption Counseling Support

Adopters Welcome: The mind-body connection. Learn how organizations and individuals can lay the groundwork for an open adoptions approach.

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Stress First Aid

Workbooks and implementation guides to help your organization adopt the Stress First Aid framework!

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Debriefing 101

Learn more about different types of debriefing, including the four steps of low impact debriefing, to support safe, effective conversations about the impact of our work

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Euthanasia Communication
+ Support Survey

Collective wisdom from a 2023 survey, created to benefit anyone looking for ideas or guidance around one of the most complicated areas of our work with animals.

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Service Providers

Experts and professionals to support you in your work and life. Explore affordable support services for staff & leadership. 

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Trauma Informed Approaches Webinar

Access this free webinar with Jessica, hosted by HSUS, on how to incorporate trauma-informed approaches in your organization

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Organizational Assessment 

Taking an assessment is a solid first step in creating a healthier workplace. 

Currently, there are no assessments specific to animal welfare organizations, but the Vicarious Trauma—Organizational Readiness Guide (VT–ORG) is an excellent tool for shelters, animal control, and veterinary clinics to utilize. 

Making time for this assessment is an important step in taking organizational responsibility for addressing compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and vicarious trauma.

Understanding the Assessment:  

VT-ORG Victim Services Assessment

A good fit for animal shelter, animal care, or advocacy organizations. 

Download the Assessment

VT-ORG Law Enforcement Assessment

This is a better fit for animal protection and investigation services. 

Download the Assessment

For More Information

For more on how to use, distribute, and collect data with the assessments, please see the Office for Victims of Crime's website. 

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You're off to a great start!

If you'd like help addressing some of the gaps in your assessment, you may wish to consider The Compassion in Balance Program's training options for your organization. 

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Individual Assessments

The following assessments are intended for personal use only, as tools to support increased self-awareness. If shared with staff, their results are always confidential. These are NOT to be used to evaluate staff during hiring or performance reviews. 

Professional Quality of Life Evaluation 

The ProQOL is the most commonly used measure of the negative and positive affects of helping others who experience suffering and trauma.

The ProQOL has sub-scales for compassion satisfaction, burnout and compassion fatigue. This version has been adapted for animal care work. 




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Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire for Adults

The ACE Questionnaire for Adults was adapted from the work of Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A version of the tool has been compiled by the Office of the California Surgeon General and the Department of Health Care Services, in consultation with the ACEs Aware Clinical Advisory Subcommittee.

For more info, please visit the CDC website.

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