The Caring-Killing Paradox: Euthanasia-Related Strain Among Animal-Shelter Workers1


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    The research described here was supported with funding from The Humane Society of the United States and with funds from an Academic Challenge Grant awarded to the Industrial-Organizational Psychology Program at BGSU by the Ohio Board of Regents. The authors thank Toby Wall and Peter Warr for their insightful comments on an earlier draft; and Gina Yanni, Lisa Schultz, Olga Clark, and Alan Walker for their assistance on this project.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Charlie L. Reeve, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223-0001. E-mail:


The current study represents the first quantitative investigation of the psychological ramifications of euthanasia-related work. Results indicate that perceived euthanasia-related strain is prevalent among shelter employees and is associated with increased levels of general job stress, work-to-family conflict, somatic complaints, and substance use; and with lower levels of job satisfaction. Analyses provide evidence that euthanasia-related work has a significant negative relation with employee well-being independent of its relation with generalized job stress. Exploratory analyses also suggest that individual, work, and organizational differences may influence the level of perceived stress and appear to be associated with certain aspects of employee well-being. The need for future research of this topic and its relevance to a wide range of applied psychologists is discussed.