Pet rescuers prone to burnout

Spot visits, adoption drives and working long hours take a toll on animal welfare workers
Last Updated 22 August 2019, 19:08 IST

Working with animals every day is perceived as a dream job by many, but what goes unnoticed is the level of emotional trauma veterinarians and volunteers undergo. Constantly dealing with sick animals and caring for them can take a toll on their mental health.

Bengaluru is one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country. We have many individuals, volunteers and organisations who dedicate their time to rescue animals and give them a better home. Be it to find a foster, take them to the hospital, or rescue them from terrible situations, they are always just a call away.

However, their kindness and willingness come with a price. Rescuing animals on a daily basis often lead them to have anxiety, depression and sometimes even burn out.

Metrolife spoke to a few animal-care volunteers to understand their work and the struggles they deal with on a daily basis.

Priya Chetty-Rajagopal

A businesswoman and founder of CJ Memorial Trust, Priya has been a part of the animal welfare community for a while now. From petitioning for a ban on the sale of animals online to being available round the clock for emergencies, she can’t remember the last time she went by a day without helping an animal in need.

Pet rescuers prone to burnout

“Dealing with issues like the supply of dogs, a large number of the population choosing to buy pets and poorly implemented animal laws are painful and heartbreaking,” she voices.

With full-time jobs, most welfare workers are able to dedicate time for the cause only when they are free. But there are people who constantly call them or share their concerns on social media, which these volunteers are always adhering to.

Priya says, “Though there are a few of us who have volunteered for this work, there is always this one person who people end up relying on all the time and the burnout is inevitable. We not only address macro issues but also look at everything else like illegal breeding, birth control issues and so on. Those who end up helping get stuck with the bills; the lack of hospital care make this job tedious.”

Due to this, the volunteers work longer days and are always alert. “If we don’t do something, some animal out there is going to die, and we just can’t let that happen.”

Priya hopes every day to have more volunteers, better law implementations and financial help so that no animal gets left behind.

“Sometimes when people call us and ask for ‘help’, they make it sound like they are offering us a gift. They don’t realise how much work goes into this,” she states.

Bismi A

From not knowing about adoption and purchasing a not-so pure-bred Labrador to only encouraging adoptions now, Bismi has come a long way in the last
10 years.

She not only takes care of her pet, but also feeds the streeties in her neighbourhood.

Pet rescuers prone to burnout

Her interest in animal welfare grew when she joined the Facebook page ‘Bombat Dawgz’.

“I started feeding all the dogs in my neighbourhood only to find out that there were more each day. They needed more care, in terms of vaccination and sterilisation,” she shares.

She once found a small pup dumped by some kids and that incident opened another world of fostering and adoption for her.

Along with her full-time job and chores at home, Bismi’s involvement in animal care increased her work; with night feeding, rescuing, sterilisation, adoption drives, follow-ups to vaccinations, her schedule was tight.

“I was happy to do this, but things started slowing down. Sleeping at odd hours started to impact health and work life. There was never enough money to take care of things and personal life started to take a toll too,” she told Metrolife.

“We eventually formed an NGO called Dumas Animal Welfare Trust for financial help and also set up a local rescue centre to take care of cases which needed long-term care.” Bismi also started Dumas Bakes N Meals, a pet bakery.

Amidst all that, she also fell ill and put a stop to volunteering work for over a year.

It became mentally exhausting for her to see animals pass away, whether it is natural or not.

“Rescue work requires funding, which is not easy to get. While there are some people who are happy to help financially, many others think that the government is helping us out, which is not true,” she says.

The thought of retiring from volunteering has crossed Bismi’s mind several times. “But then I hear a dog howling and run to its rescue. Even if I am not able to attend to every call, I try and help with others who can. Seeing a dog healthy after the rescue, a sterilised mom or hearing back from the adopters updating us about the animal’s well-being is what still keeps me going,” she says.

Krithika Raghavan

Though she doesn’t refer to herself as an animal welfare worker, she extends her support whenever she is called for help during rescues and adoption.

Pet rescuers prone to burnout

“I know a lot of welfare workers personally, who work tirelessly around the clock, and most times, situations seem bleak. There are also many run-ins with local authorities and people. Most of the financial aid is taken out of one’s own pocket,” Krithika says.

It’s heartbreaking for her to realise that most animals won’t find homes or even temporary shelters. And in some cases, volunteers would also have to take the call to put down an animal when their health deteriorates.

“Recently, an owner abandoned their dog as they were moving abroad. She grew scrawny and was pregnant. Her puppies didn’t make it, and she stopped eating. We had to move her to a shelter. When most of her issues were treated and was considered to be a ‘healthy dog’, we had to find her a new home. But she still wouldn’t eat and things started to worsen. We are still looking for a home,” she shared with Metrolife.

(Published 22 August 2019, 13:14 IST)

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