Finding Sanctuary in the Occupational Choice of Animal Shelter Work

In: Society & Animals
Anne O’Connor Department of Business and Humanities, Institute of Technology Carlow Ireland

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This paper examines the occupational choice of animal shelter work. While the Human-Animal Studies (HAS) literature tends to implicitly assume shelter entry to be based on loving nonhuman animals, this study finds evidence that loving them is a necessary but insufficient antecedent. I understand and explain my respondents’ choice as processual; early experiences and influence of significant others, serendipitous events or changes in the life course, and alienation from previous workplaces combine to precede shelter entry. In terms of the decision to stay, shelter work appears to offer sanctuary to human actors as well as to the animals in their care. My respondents have found an alternative experience of the economy, one which is not isolated from, but embedded in, their values and moral rationalities. Shelter work offers sanctuary from the market economy in nature, as embodied by other animals.

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