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Best Friends Animal Society offers insights on the state of mental health of shelter workers

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This May, Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of cats and dogs in America’s shelters in 2025, is sharing the importance of mental health: sharing findings from a recent study about how compassion fatigue is felt by shelter workers across the country and by exploring how pets can help individuals cope with anxiety and depression.

Best Friends recently conducted a study of U.S. animal shelter staff well-being.

As the largest study of its kind, the results demonstrate how although shelter workers find their career fulfilling with nearly half (49%) of respondents experiencing high level of compassion satisfaction; they also find it emotionally exhausting with nearly 54% experiencing high levels of burnout, and roughly 90% reporting high levels of compassion fatigue.

“These high burnout and compassion fatigue scores suggest worrisome levels of work-related distress among shelter staff,” said Peter Wolf, senior strategist, Shelter and Community Research, Best Friends Animal Society. “Through this sampling of 243 animal welfare workers, the study visibly illustrates that burnout and compassion fatigue scores were among the highest reported in the published literature on helping professions, including nurses and first responders.”


That said, pets offer a wide variety of mental health benefits to humans. Though they do not replace medical treatment prescribed by a doctor, here are four ways cats and dogs can help give people mental health support.

  • Instant mood booster – Simply put, pets make people happier. Even the simple action of making eye contact with a dog or cat release oxytocin (the love hormone) and dopamine (a neurotransmitter), both of which have been proven to help ease anxiety and depression.
  • Unlock healthy habits – Pets need a schedule or routine to follow every day. Little do they know, this helps their humans too! Having a routine can help those experiencing anxiety and depression because they provide a sense of stability.
  • Increase self-worth – Taking care of a dog or cat can boost feelings of self-confidence and self-worth, both of which can be mentally calming while increasing an individuals sense of responsibility.
  • Promote calmness – Being around pets can lower cortisol, which can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. A quick, simple, and effective way to de-stress is petting a dog or cat.

To learn more about how you can help ease the strain on shelter workers or how to adopt your next pet, visit bestfriends.org.