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Animal Problems/People Skills: Emotional and Interactional Strategies in Humane Education

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Recent changes in the organizational culture of nonhuman animal sheltering, coupled with attitudes that are more progressive toward companion animals, have made shelters into resources rather than last resorts. Consequently, shelter workers need the "people skills" to communicate to a public that urgently needs accurate information about animal behavior and training. This poses a difficulty for workers drawn to working with animals but who find themselves working with people. Based on participant observation and informed by social psychology and the sociology of emotions, this study articulates three primary dimensions of shelter workers' interactions with clients: (a) Narrative Knowing, (b) Emotion Management, and (c) Deference. From the analysis of these dimensions, the paper then draws conclusions about the individual costs of shelter work and suggests practical steps that workers and animal care organizations could take to recognize and reduce these costs.


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