Are staff at animal shelters compensated adequately?

Why is the suicide rate among animal shelter staff relatively high? Is it because of the kind of person working at shelters or the work they do, or both? Are they paid enough?

Rescue kitten
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Rescue kitten. Photo: Pinterest.

One of the pages on this website did very well. It received thousands of hits and Facebook ‘Likes’. It is a page about the suicide rate of animal rescue workers in the USA (link opens a new tab). They have the highest level of suicides of all workers in the USA and it equals the suicide rate of police officers and firefighters in that country.

It is worth noting, however, that if one links salary or the hourly rate of these workers to the suicide rate it is quite clear that animal rescue workers are by far the worst off. In other words animal rescue workers suffer stress and traumatic situations quite often. Does their remuneration compensate them adequately? Whereas for firefighters and police officers their remuneration (including nice pensions and job security) provides adequate compensation for the psychological risks of the job.

You would have thought that salary levels go hand-in-hand with job risk factors but does this apply to animal rescue work?

Hourly rate

My research indicates that animal rescue workers in the USA are paid around $14 per hour. Firefighters earn approximately $23 per hour and police officers earn approximately $35 per hour (figures from and

It might be argued, therefore, that animal rescue workers are underpaid and perhaps undervalued by society. It may be the case that there is an oversupply of applicants for animal rescue work which forces their salary down. However, I think that the main reason is that animals are not valued highly enough and therefore those who work in the field are also undervalued. There is perhaps a complicating factor…

Alternative thought

The high suicide rate among animal rescue workers might partly or wholly be because the work attracts a certain type of individual who is psychologically fragile. I am not in any way denigrating animal shelter staff. I admire them greatly (except the ones who have adopted practices). It may be the case that working with animals attracts individuals with an identifiable psychological profile. One which is more likely to lead to suicidal thoughts.

For example, rescue staff may have a ‘rescue personality’. The characteristics of this personality type is a person who is very committed and dedicated driven by great empathy for the animals. This mentality may leave them more vulnerable to life’s stresses.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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