DIY pet euthanasia: The shotgun edition
A few months back I penned a post on this topic and received a clutch of angry emails suggesting that by writing about do-it-yourself euthanasias, even disparagingly, I was encouraging others to try it out. Here’s another post on the topic that illustrates, yet again (hopefully more forcefully), exactly why you should never try this at home.
A woman in Colorado was arrested by the police last week after she drugged her ailing dog with Xanax (a valium-like drug), dug a hole, placed him in it, and fired a .22 caliber Smith and Wesson five times (connecting only four, even at such close range)…
…supposedly because she couldn’t afford her vet’s steep fees for euthanasia.
She was charged with a felony for animal cruelty.
In Texas she might’ve been admired for her pluck, even if her aim left something to be desired. But near Denver? Indiscriminate gun use is NOT tolerated—especially when it’s leveled against the almighty dog. (Coloradans are crazy about their dogs in a way that reflects their mostly-suburban sensibilities.)
Charitably, this woman’s fellow citizens are not only shocked at her actions, they’re concerned for her mental health. Who could be driven to do such a thing?
After all, shelters abound. And they’re willing to humanely euthanize sick animals at no cost.
Perhaps she feared the shelter’s methods (after reading about the Tennessee shelter vet’s well-publicized “heart stick” technique I wouldn’t blame her). Or maybe it’s true what she says (through tears): 1) that she’d been experiencing severe stress, 2) that she had no transportation after her car had been stolen, and 3) that her dog Bailey, her “best friend,” was suffering horribly.
But to shoot your own pet point blank at close range (even with your eyes closed, as seems to have been the case given her poor marksmanship) is not something the good citizens of Colorado take lightly.
To be fair (as has been discussed here on Dolittler before), death by gun can be very humane. The problem lies in the method’s unreliability. That’s because the humane-ness of the approach relies 1) on the shooter’s nerves of steel, 2) her subject’s steadiness, and 3) her skill with a gun.
Could I do it? If I knew I had no other choice and my dog was suffering horribly I’m sure I could manage it. But then, I’ve had practice shooting a firearm and I happen to know the anatomic landmarks I’d need to hit—on the first shot.
Without this basic degree of knowledge (given a no-way-out scenario), I’d never ever consider it…because I also know what would happen if I missed. And it’s NOT pretty…because missing on the first try never makes the next shot an easy one.
Those old-timers and hunters who claim to know exactly how this is done and support their right to kill their own dogs (out in the field after a boar has gored their best dog, for example) would likely fess up to the occasional slip-up.
You know, it’s not as easy as it sounds to shoot a well-loved, writhing animal in the head. Not when you have to do it just right the first time.
Reliability is everything when it comes to euthanasia. It’s the overriding issue in modern veterinary medicine’s approach. That’s why we invoke the two-injection protocol. And that’s also why DIY euthanasia is NOT something we recommend.
If the goal is to produce a “beautiful death” every single time, without fail, an at-home approach by a non-professional is unlikely to pass muster—no matter how experienced a marksman (or drug deliverer) you think you are. There’s just too much that can go wrong.
Do I feel extreme empathy for this woman who felt she had no other way out? In fact, I do. But she also makes the case against DIY euthanasia very succinctly. Her actions and their outcomes—physiologically, psychologically and legally—prove my point:
Not only is allowing DIY euthanasia poor public policy because it means animals might suffer more for their owners’ lack of skills, it’s just not something most of us can stomach. Not when the right option is one we make so readily available…specifically to prevent tragic stories like this one.