Active Listening and Basic De-escalation for the Animal Welfare and Control Professional

Active Listening and Basic De-escalation for the Animal Welfare and Control Professional
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-10-05
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Active Listening and Basic De-escalation
Unit 2 Transcript: Active Listening and Basic De-escalation
Unit 3 Workbook: Active Listening and Basic De-escalation
Unit 4 Recording: Active Listening and Basic De-escalation

As humans, we have some faults and misses when it comes to communicating. It can be in the form of listening to respond instead of understanding, injecting ourselves and our experiences into the conversation, minimizing others’ feelings, among others. It is imperative in helping professions to be able to communicate effectively and de-escalate the often-turbulent situations we are faced with. This webinar provides concrete examples and strategies to navigate crisis situations through active listening and affect behavioral change in the people we serve.

This session’s instructor is Jennifer Toussaint, the Chief of Animal Control in Arlington County, Virginia at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. She has been in the animal welfare profession since 2012, specializes in Humane Urban Wildlife Management, and is a CIT-trained officer.

Specifics of this discussion are:

  • The concept of space and grace that we must observe when interacting with both people and animals in the communities we serve.
  • Differentiating crisis and conflict – and how a job in animal welfare/control subjects us to these regularly.
  • How active listening results in regulating emotions, establishing rapport and influence, information-gathering, encouraging behavioral change, and ultimately resolving the root cause of a crisis.
  • The importance of not taking responses or feelings expressed during a crisis personally.
  • A step-by-step guide on how to get started with active listening that looks into:
    • The structure of the conversation.
    • Assessing the environment and situation and ensuring safety.
    • Adjusting tone, stance, non-verbal, and appearance as needed throughout the conversation.
    • Really trying to understand things surrounding the incident, particularly ones that are beneath the surface.
  • A rundown of the most common barriers in communication that hinder us from addressing the root cause of the incidents and the needs of the people involved.
  • The importance of the tone of voice and inflections to convey sincerity and willingness to help.
  • Utilizing emotional labeling to help build rapport, open up the conversation, and clarify the exact sentiments and emotions that an individual in crisis may be feeling.
  • Tips on effective paraphrasing to assure others that we understand their feelings and situation.
  • Using mirroring/reflecting to initially build rapport and convey willingness to listen.
  • How to summarize as a check-in mechanism and avoiding self-orientations, judgments, inferences, and attempting to problem solve when summarizing.
  • Guidelines on effectively asking open-ended questions to convey sincere interest, elicit feedback, and limit feelings of over-questioning.
  • When to best use minimal encouragers and how the overuse of which can inadvertently convey lack of interest and breed distrust.
  • The four qualities of empathy and how to demonstrate each.
  • What rapport is and examples of phrases that help establish it.
  • Leveraging effective pauses to de-escalate, particularly in phone conversations.
  • The concept of influence that we’re trying to accomplish in order to alter behavior and examples of statements that can help with influencing others.
  • Follow-ups: When to conduct follow-ups, tools to manage these, and what doing so communicates to the people we serve.
  • Case examples demonstrating how these active listening, de-escalation, and communication techniques were able to resolve some issues animal welfare/control agencies typically encounter.

Points clarified during the Q&A were about:

  • Dealing with argumentative community members who try to ‘assert’ their rights or claim knowledge of the law.
  • Translating these tips into written communications and interactions.
  • Ensuring safety by creating space when backup isn’t available yet.


Resources Mentioned During this Webinar:


Other Webinars with This Speaker


Audience Comments

  • “I enjoyed this webinar because it has a lot to do with the job that I do. It is very important that we have a warm heart now in days and be understanding of others and what they are going through…now in days we are not only losing a relative but also our fur babies.” — Elizabeth
  • “I am an Animal Health Inspector in NYS and I host annual conferences for DCOs/ACOs and LIEs. This presentation was extremely informative. The examples that were given were relatable and useful for multiple situations. I enjoyed this presentation very much and I learned a great deal.” — Elizabeth
  • “The information on oral communication is applicable to any incident. Great session.” — Pamela
  • “I liked the examples and ACO-specific tips for de-escalation. Great job Jennifer!” — Dawn
  • “I learned the significance of tone. One simple statement stated in the proper tone can bring resolve to an intense situation. I thought it was a thorough presentation! I enjoyed the breakdown of “Conflict vs. Crisis”, the various explanations and examples given on active listening, and want to experience this same class live (if possible) so that I can simulate and put into practice the principles that were shared today. Thank you again for the wonderful webinar!” — Laurence
  • “De-escalation is an area I am aware I need to work on, I feel like this webinar gave a lot of great tips on that. I look forward to putting them to use in the field.” — Melody
  • “Fundamental skills for de-escalation, combined with practical experience tips. I would like training for how to conduct oneself when being recorded by people likely to post the interaction to social media/youtube. How to come across so reasonable and uninteresting that it doesn’t get posted, or to respond in a manner that gains praise and spreads a message of positivity, professionalism, and a great reflection for the agency that one works for.” — Taku
  • “I liked the question and answer segment.” — Thomas
  • “This was very helpful and was a great refresher for me.” — Vernon



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit in Core Area 1 (ACO Safety) for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





Additional Resources
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After the Webinar: Active Listening and Basic De-Escalation for the Animal Welfare and Control Professional. Q&A with Jennifer Toussaint
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