The Office of Animal Welfare at the University of Washington (UW) had an expert in the area of Compassion Fatigue for Laboratory Animal Professionals (LAPs) come out in 2016 and 2017 to help us, as an institution, better determine areas of need for a sustainable Compassion Fatigue Program. This ultimately led to the creation of Dare 2 Care (D2C), the University’s first Compassion Fatigue Program.

To date, Dare 2 Care has taken strides to determine the needs of laboratory animal professionals (i.e., research faculty and staff, animal caregivers, behavioral management staff, veterinarians and veterinary technicians, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee members, and support and administrative staff) by interviewing over 150 UW employees. The findings pointed heavily to LAPs desiring the University of Washington to provide a sound Compassion Fatigue Program. The UW and other institutions primarily focus on the welfare of research animals, as we should, but we need to also offer an outlet for the human welfare of those who strive to ensure research animals receive the utmost care and compassion.

Laboratory animal professionals suffering from compassion fatigue currently do not have resources to turn to for tools and strategies to help identify, reduce, and ameliorate their stressed emotional state. This was the most frequent concern that arose from the assessment that surveyed over 150 UW employees. Other prominent requests included (1) an animal study endpoint notification system for the animal caregivers so they could have advance notice and an opportunity to say goodbye, (2) to have brighter, more private, and more personal breakrooms as many caregivers’ breakrooms are not conducive to quiet, self-reflection, (3) to have a dedicated time and space available for “Reflections” to provide an opportunity for individuals to come together and pay tribute to our research animals and each other, (4) to have an annual commemoration for the animals who give their lives for research, (5) to be able to have someone to talk to when in need, and (6) realistic self-care and self-coping strategies.

The nurturing of a sustainable Compassion Fatigue Program is expected to aid in relieving the pain and distress of laboratory animal professionals suffering from compassion fatigue, to improve the environmental conditions of LAPs, as well as to aid in their health and welfare. Having healthier employees will result in less turnover/absenteeism. Emotionally supported individuals who are caring and respectful toward animals are best suited to promote and provide an enriching experience for animals and is significant.