First Advisor

Susan B. Poulsen

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Communication






Companion Animal, Bond, Ethnography of Communication, Interpersonal communication and culture, Human-animal communication, Communication in ethnology, Animal shelters -- Research -- Methodology



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 108 p.) : 1 ill.


This study sought to understand the culture-sharing group of people working within the shelter area of a Pacific Northwest animal shelter through the Ethnography of Communication. About 63% of households in the United States live with a companion animal (Risley-Curtis et al., 2006). Recently, there has been a shift toward closer examination into the ways in which humans interact with animals, particularly companion animals. The guiding questions of this study were: RQ1: What are the cultural communication forms performed in the context of the humane society? RQ2: How do shelter workers communicate about companion animals? RQ3: What cultural meanings are instantiated through communication in this context? This qualitative research approach included 40 hours of participant observation, individual interviews and an analysis of a set of documents and artifacts. Utilizing the Ethnography of Communication components, thematic and pattern analysis, findings revealed use of three main communication forms within the shelter: verbal, written and nonverbal communication and the overarching key theme of relational bonding occurring within an animal-centric organization among 4 relational categories: A. Shelter animals and shelter animals, B. Shelter animals and shelter workers, C. Shelter workers and shelter workers and D. Shelter workers and the public. Processes leading to relational bonding are delineated including detailed speech as well as aspects of "broken bonds" and euthanasia and it's effects within a "no-kill" organization.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


Portland State University. Dept. of Communication

Persistent Identifier