Date of Award

May 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sarah E Riforgiate

Committee Members

Ali Gattoni, Nigel Rothfels, Sang-Yeon Kim


CCO, critical discourse analysis, identity work, internatural communication, interviews, qualitative


In a two-part study of this dissertation project, I relied on qualitative research methods to examine the stories of animal shelter employees and volunteers—stories about animal shelters, animal sheltering, and shelter animals—to analyze communication processes that shape staff-identity, organizational-identity, and organizational identification. This project was guided by the communicative constitution of organizations (CCO) approach, which frames communication as not simply something that happens within an organization, but rather argues organization happens in communication. Furthermore, contributing to internatural communication research, this project explored identity and identification from a “more-than human” perspective. Relating CCO and internatural communication to research in this dissertation provided support for how communication is not only central to animal shelter organizations, but the organizing of shelter animals, and perceptions of animal identity as an organized state.Thus, in an exploration of identity and identification, this dissertation study explored animal shelters (Chapter Two) and shelter animals (Chapter Three) as ordered entities. The first study (Chapter Two) addressed the research question: How do non-profit animal shelter staff communicate and understand their identity in relation to the organization’s identity? The first study’s findings contribute to identity research at the organizational level by exploring how nonprofit animal shelter staff negotiate their identity relative to the organization’s identity. This study found that more than half of participants did not align or struggled to align their individual identity with the organization’s identity, primarily due to issues of animal welfare. The second study (Chapter Three) considered the research question: How do animal identities emerge through communication? The analysis of the findings of this second study focused on communication outcomes to critically explore how communication about, with, and for animals, based on interactions with these animals, impact the welfare of shelter animals. This second study found two prevailing discourses that were created, maintained and also resisted: (1) animals need humans to communicate for them, and (2) not all animals can be saved. In the final chapter (Chapter Four), I couple the findings of both studies within this dissertation to explore the overall theoretical and practical implications. Further, I offer future research directions to extend research of how communication with, for, and about animals, shapes understanding and action.

Available for download on Saturday, May 27, 2023