Bad blood over 'ugly' shelter pet deaths in Tennessee
I don’t think anyone can blame me for outing one of my own on this issue. A vet in Sumner County Tennessee has been observed on video brusquely “euthanizing” non-sedated pets with intracardiac injections. That’s bad.
This is no Pulp Fiction Uma Thurman fantasy freak. This is some shelter vet who gets paid nine bucks for every pet he kills. He has the tools and the knowledge to do it kindly—yet he prefers to do it quickly. When incentivized by nine bucks a minute, you can see how any morally challenged person might succumb to such expedience.
In case you don’t know the gory details of intracardiac injection, let me explain: A needle passes through the chest wall, puncturing the lungs on its way to the heart. It then passes through the heart muscle finally to reside (if the doctor is both sufficiently skilled and lucky) in one of the chambers of the heart. The contents of the syringe are then expelled into the cavity, rapidly deploying the drug throughout the bloodstream.
Problem is, few of us are good enough to manage a perfect “heart stick” with an animal trying it’s darndest to get away from you. Heck, I have a hard time when the animal is completely anesthetized or almost dead—the only time I ever undertake this procedure.
And, by the way, it’s never out of sheer expedience that most of us go for the heart. It’s usually because the veins are otherwise inaccessible. As a result, this is a procedure I resort to in birds, reptiles and other venous access-challenged cases—but only when they’re already comatose.
Why? Not just because it’s hard to do with accuracy, potentially leaving you with an animal with a lungful of viscous euthanasia solution, but also because it’s painful. The chest wall is a notoriously sensitive spot we typically dare not access without general anesthesia or a local anesthetic.
Here's HSUS's take on IC injections:
"Intracardiac (IC) injections (into one of the four chambers of the heart) are acceptable only for animals who have been verified as unconscious. An injection into a conscious animal’s chest is stressful and extremely painful and therefore considered to be cruel."
Apart from engaging in an unsightly, painful, unnecessarily stressful mode of “euthanasia,” this vet broke the law. Tennessee's Non-livestock Animal Humane Death Act states that “intracardial injection by hypodermic needle [should] only if performed on heavily sedated, anesthetized, or comatose animals.”
To me, it seems obvious that this vet deserves some sort of sanction: license action or criminal prosecution, perhaps? At the very least, this doc deserves to lose his job.
But the County shelter administration doesn’t agree. You see, they’ve allowed him to remain on the payroll as long as he abides by the new provisio: “No heart sticks, Doc. It looks bad.” Those are my words, not theirs, but it’s what they’ve effectively affirmed through their laissez-faire attitude on the issue.
As one of the area’s appalled residents aptly noted, “Euthanasia is a Greek word which means beautiful death and that’s what it’s supposed to be.”
I agree. Moreover, any vet that can do heart sticks on fully conscious animals, day after day without batting an eye, probably doesn’t deserve to be allowed the right to attempt the correct version of this noble procedure. In fact, I don’t even want to watch the video clip attached to this story—nor do I think you’d want to either (go find the link at your own peril, the descriptions contained in the news clip are enough for me).
But I do know one thing (and you probably won’t catch me saying this again) people like this demean my profession and I’d like nothing better than to see them forced out of it.