Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Sociology (Applied), PhD

Committee Chair

Negrey, Cynthia

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Gagne, Patricia

Committee Member

Gagne, Patricia

Committee Member

Roelfs, David

Committee Member

Carini, Robert

Committee Member

Theriot, Nancy

Author's Keywords

gender and leadership; ethic of care; altruistic leadership; animal sheltering organizations; animals and society; euthanasia


This study explores the connection between gender, leadership and implementation of best practice strategies to reduce or eliminate euthanasia of healthy, adoptable companion animals in animal sheltering organizations. The purpose of this mixed methods study utilizing an online survey and in-depth interviews is to explore the impact of gender and animal sheltering leadership on organizational policies, as well as workers’, and volunteers’ attitudes toward reducing euthanasia in sheltering organizations. It is anticipated that the knowledge generated from this research will provide new insights into animal sheltering policies and procedures and inform sheltering organizations about the connection between gendered leadership in animal sheltering organizations and euthanasia rates. In the United States we are experiencing a paradigm shift regarding animals in society culturally, scientifically and relationally. Attitudes toward animals are changing from animal as object to animal as subject. This paradigm shift converges center stage with the problem of pet overpopulation in the United States and the use of euthanasia to address that problem. The findings for this dissertation are divided into three chapters, four through six. Chapter four focuses on identity issues via the ethic of care and ethic of justice framework. Chapter five focuses on altruistic leadership, organizational learning and the impact that leadership has on the sheltering organization. Chapter five combines identity, leadership and organizational issues to examine the impact on the sheltering organization and policies. The final chapter, seven, provides analysis of the previous three chapters and the closing of the dissertation. While qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews found support for difference between gender use of ethic of care and ethic of justice, quantitative significance was not found between gender and the two scores of care and justice. A significant difference was found on ethic of care scores between former and current employees, with former employees having significantly lower ethic of care scores. Women held higher scores on a measure of altruistic leadership and several areas of organizational learning. Female leaders also have a significantly lower rate of canine euthanasia rates within the organization. A regression analysis finds that leader gender, altruistic leadership score, private organizations, fostering, and transporting significantly predict rates of canine euthanasia in sheltering organizations. Finally, leaders, workers and volunteers in sheltering organizations are strongly impacted by their work. Case studies of both a toxic environment where change was not successful and a supportive environment where change was successfully made to reduce or remove euthanasia of healthy, adoptable companion animals highlights the centrality of the work to meaning of identity for individuals.