Animal Welfare Professionals

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Peer Support

  • 1.  Peer Support

    Posted 05-29-2024 03:25 AM

    How do overcome the "you are just a dog catcher" or "you are just….."? I'm hearing more and more stories from peers who are burnt out and feeling unsupported. How can we are animal professionals change that? We are spread across the world but how can I and we help?


    #FieldServicesandPublicSafety*

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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO/Peer Support Specialist
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 2.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 05-29-2024 09:19 AM

    Good Morning,  This feeling is Real.  As professionals in this industry (AC, Veterinary, shelter care, behaviorists, etc) there will always be the "you are just..." or "you're only..." out there...But we are Never 'just' animal care professionals.  We are Therapists when we hold a crying person who just lost their animal, or consoling a family who has no choice but to relinquish their pet, or offering our hearts to comfort the animal that was left behind in their last moments on earth...We are Skilled.  We can do things no one else can--We see fear or anxiety, when everyone else sees a "rabid monster." We are the voice of reason on the phone when someone calls about that "raccoon acting weird in the middle of the afternoon," or when fellow Police Officers need backup because someone has neglected their pets, or when they are faced with that scary dog locked in someone's garage.  AC is not an easy position, but You are necessary.  

    Take time to play with puppies.  Cuddle kittens.  Find the Joy in the absurd, or the dark, every day.  Do what feels right in your heart, (cliche I know, but true) and at the end of the day, know that you are not alone, and that what you do Does matter.  Sometimes I feel like a small person, with a small bucket, in front of a tsunami.  But it's ok to come home after scooping that wave, and cry all over your pets because that wave is just so big....But I realized recently that there are an awful lot of us 'small persons' with 'small buckets,' and we are saving lives after all.  Keep scooping, we need you.



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    Rose DiPaolo
    Board Member
    Benewah Humane Society, Inc
    ID
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  • 3.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 05-29-2024 12:38 PM

    Rose, 

    That was one of the beautifully said comments I've heard in a very very long time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my small bucket. :)



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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 4.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 05-30-2024 11:10 AM

    Good afternoon,

    As animal service professionals, we may take time to relay that we are much more than "just a dog catcher" or "are just". We have leveled up, we are no longer providing control; but services, resources, and more.  For the community(ies) that may believe we are "just the dog catcher" or "are just", invite them in to see what a day (even just a peak) as an animal service professional today looks like. It may definitely be a life-changing experience leading to more informed community(yes). The more informed community(ies) is/are, the view of "just..." will change. A change in perspective can also lead to more involvement, participation, engagement, and exchange of needs between the communities we serve.    

    Burn out is very real in this field as well, even without having to overcome the "just" mode.  We are human and most times the nature of this work can take a toll on us mentally, physically, and emotionally. We have to take time to enjoy the wins, learn from our losses, and break in between when needed.  

    As Rose said "Take time to play with puppies.  Cuddle kittens.  Find the Joy in the absurd, or the dark, every day.  Do what feels right in your heart, (cliche I know, but true) and at the end of the day, know that you are not alone, and that what you do Does matter."



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    Michelle George
    Director of Community Animal CARE
    Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity
    GA
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  • 5.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-05-2024 06:08 AM

    Michelle, 

    Isn't it amazing what a great group of people we have around us. Our peers continue to amaze me with their compassion, advise and support for each other. Even without ever meeting face to face. Thank you for your GREAT response. I could tell there was a lot of thought put behind it and truly appreciate the time you took. 



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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 6.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 05-30-2024 09:09 PM

    Hi there. It is heartbreaking to hear that someone would say that.  This may not be your experience, but unfortunately, in my experience, we blame outside factors for burnout--the work is too hard and too stressful, clients or the public are treating us poorly--but these pale in comparison to the burnout achieved from internal workplace drama, colleague competition and in-fighting, and generally poor workplace morale that is internally-caused. We can't control everyone--the work is hard and clients will do what they do--but we should, in theory, have control over ourselves and our immediate interactions with colleagues. But we let our workplaces get over-run with gossip and we let ourselves treat our colleagues poorly.   In my mind, hearing "you're just a..." would feel bad coming from a member of the public, but would feel exponentially worse coming from a coworker--and unfortunately I can imagine both being real-world scenarios.  We can and should control our workplaces. Even though our work is hard and clients can be mean, we need to preserve the bubble of sanity and decorum in our workspace. As an industry, we are failing at this miserably.  We need to do better. When we have high standards for our internal societies, the respect  will resonate outward to the broader public. 



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    Jacqueline Paritte
    Medical Director
    Clemson Paw Partners
    SC
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  • 7.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-05-2024 06:11 AM

    Jacqueline, 

    Can I just give you a standing ovation? WOW! YES!! YES!! YES!!



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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 8.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-01-2024 02:18 PM

    Hi Jeanette,

    I'm sorry you've run into such a combination of ignorance and rudeness, but that is exactly what it is.  Remind yourself of that.  

    If you have time to explain more about what your work involves, Michelle had a good point.   Or partner with an organization doing humane ed and put together a presentation on what your job involves--because the vast majority of the community is ignorant about the job, they're just not rude and dismissive of the people doing it.

    Rose made such a beautiful suggestion--we should all do more playing, cuddling, and laughing at the absurd!



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    April King
    Volunteer and Board Member
    Kotor Kitties
    +1 206 407 5336
    http://www.kotorkitties.org
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  • 9.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-05-2024 06:20 AM

    April, 

    You are right. I don't believe most people intend to cause an insult. I think most say and do things without thought. At least if I think of it from my side, if I intend to offend there will be no doubt that it what my intent was. :) I can make anyone cry if I truly want to. That isn't a good quality. 99.9% of the time if it is brought to my attention that I have hurt someone's feelings I am so embarrassed and can't apologize enough. I think if we take a second and believe there isn't malice behind the words and take a second to try to find a commonality in each other we find everyone just needs a moment themselves. I know I have had some bad days and said things that good grief, the poor people who have crossed my path. On the other side most days when I simply smile and have a second to tell someone "I love your t-shirt" (or something or other) it is amazing how much we end up having in common. Thank you for your insight and allowing me a moment to self-reflect. 



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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 10.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-03-2024 08:16 AM

    Hi Jeannette,

    I see that you've tagged this for Field Services, which was my line of work before I switched to support staff. If you're encountering phrases like "you're just a dog catcher," that's a put down. It's meant to either make you feel bad or tip the power balance in the conversation toward the other person.

    My first piece of advice is to be mindful enough to recognize these power plays -- it's not at all about you. It's the other person playing their cards to get what they want, consciously or unconsciously. I imagine that this is coming up in field from folks who don't want to hear or obey what you are saying. When you hear stuff like this, instead of taking it to heart, think about why they are saying it, what that tells you, and how you can use that information to work toward whatever your goal is. I really hope it's not coming from coworkers, but if it is then maybe that tells you that someone with authority needs to do some clarifying about your duties and authority, and they also need to demonstrate support to back that up.

    I recently learned in a leadership class that when engaging conflict, it is important to be mindful of how what we're saying reflects on people's identity. People want to know that they are competent, good, and likeable. I suspect that they statements you have in mind hurt because they touch on identity. So my second piece of advice is to practice identity statements, such as what Rose shared. When lies about "you're just..." start plaguing you, take some time to write down the truth: "I am a civil servant. I am an animal rescuer. I am a mediator. I am a healer. I maintain order. I protect our community from rabies." Et cetera. And then make it a habit to read these things to yourself, or record yourself reading them and listen to them on your drive in to work. You can tweak it over time. It builds you up so that when you're hit with microaggressions or outright assaults on your identity, you can process it much more easily.

    Stay grounded!

    James



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    James Pawlowicz
    Humane Rescue Alliance
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  • 11.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-05-2024 06:04 AM

    James,

    What a GREAT response. Yes name calling is always hurtful no matter who they come from. I am not typically bothered by the name calling especially on the street by the citizens as I have a great sense of "I go home with what ever attitude I choose. Theirs's or mine. It is completely up to me. Not anyone but me." My co-workers are good about knowing my worth, as I have worked hard to establish that. I am hearing more and more stories while working in the Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation (and Animal Control), as the Peer Support Specialist of others in our field who are struggling with the name calling. Typically the name calling for me is coming from within my own family who I have distance myself from. Difficult, yes. But it is what it is and I have to be okay before I can help anyone else be okay, and if those who should be supportive of my amazing work can't see my value, their loss. My post was more to see how others are dealing, so I could be better in helping those who are struggling. Your response was PERFECT!!! Thank you so much



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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 12.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-05-2024 10:31 AM

    Hey Jeanette,

    Sharing this research article in case it can offer some additional ideas or support you in your efforts to bring change. It touches on many of the same things already shared in this thread around ways your animal control/field services peers are trying to shift the conversation and gain this community support: Animal Control and Field Services Officer's Perspectives on Community Engagement: A Qualitative Phenomenology Study (mdpi.com). The strategies that seem to be working best are relationship-building, providing assistance or information, and allowing time for compliance. 

    Sending all the kitten cuddles to you and your colleagues. Know that you have the full support from this community!



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    Sloane Hawes
    Chief of Research and Development
    Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE)
    Milliken CO
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  • 13.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-05-2024 03:51 PM

    Sloane, 

    The Town I work for is going through a salary survey right now and of course Code Enforcement/Animal Control has been placed in an Admin category. This article was so good I sent it up the chain with a lot of yellow highlights to show how we aren't behind a desk in an a/c office. Thank you so much!! Wow GREAT read. With permission I may cross post this onto FB so others can use it when necessary. Thank you so much! I hop more people have a chance to read it. 



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    Jeanette Loven
    Senior Code Enforcement/Animal Control Officer/FTO
    Telluride Marshals Office
    CO
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  • 14.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 06-06-2024 10:46 AM

    Jeanette,

    This article is open access so please feel free to share far and wide :)



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    Sloane Hawes
    Chief of Research and Development
    Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE)
    Milliken CO
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  • 15.  RE: Peer Support

    Posted 23 days ago

    Such a great thread!!!! Thank you for prompting this conversation @Jeanette Loven



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    Jerrica Owen, CAWA
    Executive Director
    National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA)
    jowen@nacanet.org
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