Euthanasia IS humane, Really?

November 23, 2010

"Euthanasia IS humane" is a general statement that someone posted on an email list yesterday and a couple of people concurred, including the list moderator.  I wanted to take issue with that general concept but, alas, the moderator (who actually started the sub-thread with "Euthanasia *is* a humane option" which was followed by the initial quote where "is" was capitalized and those 2 were followed by a 3rd more extensive insistence from someone with "years" of animal shelter experience) would brook no discussion if it disagreed with her "fact".  Well, my goodness, what's a blogger to do... Gee, guess I'll blog about it.

"Animal euthanasia (from the Greek meaning "good death") is the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, an animal suffering from an incurable, esp. a painful, disease or condition.[1] Euthanasia methods are designed to cause minimal pain and distress. Euthanasia is distinct from animal slaughter and pest control"  Now I can get behind that technical definition of euthanasia.  But read on...

Reasons for euthanasia

How is a behavioral problem "an incurable disease or condition"?  MAYBE you can persuade me it is an incurable "condition" but it darned sure isn't a disease.

"Old age – Deterioration to loss of major bodily functions. Severe impairment of the quality of life."  Same question, same answer and, since the very definition of euthanasia includes withholding extraordinary care for the purpose of allowing a natural death, active euthanasia is in no way mandated.  You see, classically, a "good death" includes natural deaths and we are not required to hasten death.

"Lack of homes - many shelters receive considerably more surrendered animals than they are capable of re-housing." WTF?  How does that meet the definition of euthanasia AT ALL?  One would have to have a warped brain to think that humanity's inability to place pets in homes (or return them to the homes from whence they were lost) constitutes an "incurable disease or condition".  But then I've already noticed the serious impact the raving ARFs are having on Wikipedia.  No doubt one of them will run over to change the very definition of euthanasia to better suit their willful killing of healthy animals.

Humane: "characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, esp. for the suffering or distressed"

The killing that goes on en masse in animal shelters MAY be humane but it is KILLING, not euthanasia.

At another extreme: "So you know, plenty of veterinarians in private practice feel just as I do. We will not euthanize healthy animals, ever."  The "healthy animal" in question: "eleven-year-old large-breed mix, which I’ve been treating for five years for his chronic liver disease and osteoarthritis".  OK, let's start with LARGE dog with arthritis.  Think about having to haul around this large dog because he's having trouble walking.  Oh, and YOU are elderly, well, at least "older" AND you've just inherited this dog because someone died.  And then there's the liver disease too.  "In many cases of liver disease, specific treatment is unavailable. Treatment is mainly supportive and symptomatic, such as administering subcutaneous (SQ) or intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration, providing adequate nutrition, and giving medications to control vomiting...  Some types of liver disease are not curable, but with supportive care, the patient may still be able to live a comfortable, though shortened, life."

This dog is 11, been in treatment already for 5 years and probably has a shortened life expectancy.  This dog is NOT healthy.

On the one hand, we have ARFs claiming that killing for space constraints is "euthanasia" and a veterinarian calling euthanasia of a old, sick dog "Convenience Euthanasia".  I can certainly understand why those in kill shelters want to soften their convenience killing into "euthanasia" even though it isn't.  It is of interest to note that more and more of these kill shelters are participating in animal seizures, after which they frequently perform their convenience killings upon animals that the owner might have had difficulty persuading a vet to euthanize because the vet would have considered it a convenience euthanasia.  I can even understand why veterinarians who promote pet insurance which "prompts owners to use more extreme medical measures to prolong their pets' lives" would expand their concept of what is ordinary care, moving items from the extraordinary realm to the ordinary in the process.

You and I, the average pet owners, are caught in the midst of all these competing interests.  ARFs who want to seize our animals while accusing us of atrocities so they can do fund raising while killing healthy animals. Veterinarians who promote insurance because it ensures their paychecks while jacking up the "reasonable" care standard.  Always follow the money!

You and I, the average pet owners, need to bring all these people back to center, back to reality.  The animals are our property, not subject to redistribution or destruction at the whims of others.

Pet insurance carries a very serious risk for us all.  Right now, it is reasonably priced but it is already promoting a higher standard of pet care and the pet health insurance "business is not yet profitable, because of the high rate of claims".  Pet insurance prompts us to more extreme measures which become considered ordinary but the insurance companies will have to raise rates to cover all those costs and there goes the spiral of us expecting more and more extraordinary care as ordinary care and we WILL have to pay for it.  In the meantime, we raise the standard for what we consider ordinary care and that opens more and more to accusations of atrocities for failing to meet those rapidly rising minimal care standards.

Ain't that sweet?  For now, the ARFs and veterinarians rake in oodles of dollars and the ARFs rake in our animals too or perhaps we cave and provide the animals with better medical care than we can afford for ourselves.  While the ARFs call their convenience killings "euthanasia", if you can't afford more than nominal care, your veterinarian may accuse you of asking for a "convenience euthanasia" and refuse to perform it putting you at risk of being accused of animal cruelty.  Then the ARFs thieve ALL your animals, put them on TV begging for donations to tend them, and then take half or more of them in the back room to be killed.

Go Back

There is already one law that I'm aware of that dangerously mandates, in open-ended wording, such a higher standard of care. It can be found in Alachua County, FL, which put in place an ordinance several years ago that theoretically limits pet euthanasia to pets only ** that are beyond veterinary abilities to treat ** . I'll quote the relevant sections:

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(page 4) Humane euthanasia means an injection that causes immediate and painless death, as mandated by Florida Statutes and the Board of Veterinary Medicine.
(page 7)
Sec 72.10 Humane treatment for companion animals.
(a) An owner shall treat a companion animal in a humane manner and shall provide humane care for an animal. Humane care includes but is not limited to providing adequate food, adequate water, adequate shelter, adequate space, and veterinary care to maintain health and to prevent or cure diseases.
(page 8)
( 5 ) Veterinary care may include humane euthanasia if a companion animal is beyond the abilities of veterinary medicine to treat or cure and the animal is suffering.

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you can read the entire here:
http://www.alachuacounty.us/Depts/BOCC/Ordinances/1999/99-020.pdf

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This makes it technically impossible for anyone of modest means to own a pet. Such a pet owner would be in violation of this law if the pet was sick or injured and they could not afford the veterinary care needed to treat the animal, should a vet feel that a the practical decision of euthanasia was not an option under this law. Or, what if the owner just plain didn't think their pet should be put through more suffering that advanced measures might entail? They lose the right to make an important decision on what is best for their pet. This law would also make it impossible to euthanize a pet due to serious temperament reasons. And, since it's impossible for a vet to "prevent" most disease, anytime a pet becomes ill in Alachua County is technically a violation of this ordinance.

Also note the clause that "humane care includes...but is not limited to" so even though a pet is well-provided with the basics for life, as amplified in that law, it may not be enough to prevent the owner from being in violation of this law, which is where "prosecutorial discretion" comes in. Heaven help the owner if the prosecutor believes that pets should not be owned and/or bred, or who has a personal vendetta against the owner, or is out for a promotion and feels that increased prosecutions will serve towards that end.

Such a law is extremely dangerous for pet owners (no doubt why ARs pushed to have it on the books) since the open wording can go well beyond what a reasonable pet owner (or even their vet) believes is necessary. The bar for "standard of care" (back to pet insurance) is continaully raised higher and higher and beyond the reach of many pet owners, who subsequently must give up their pets.

very usefull information, thanks a lot



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