Should veterinarians participate in shelter 'euthanasia'?
It’s a question that was raised recently after I posted on gas chamber “euthanasia” techniques. And it’s one I’ve received many private emails on. (So you know, the shy lurkers among you can always hit the ‘contact us’ button and get my direct line.)
Is it right for veterinarians to assist in euthanasias for “unwanted,” but otherwise healthy pets?
My take is no. from my "lofty" position in private practice, I can easily say I wouldn’t subject myself to it. So why would I expect anyone else to pick up my slack? I’d be a hypocrite if I did. And yet, many veterinarians find it necessary to take part in these events on a regular basis.
Everyone’s different. I get that. but even people who believe what I basically do––that animal life is sacred––have another take on how that’s interpreted.
After all, I eat meat. And many others who believe in the sacredness of animal life refuse to do so. It’s their interpretation. That’s why I have to understand the point of view of those who love animals and also choose to end their lives in shelter settings. Yet I find it so hard to do so.
No, healthy animal euthanasia of so-called, “unwanted” pets is not considered unethical, morally challenged, or ignorant by most veterinary standards. After all, some veterinarians view their goal as being more about alleviating suffering than about “doing no harm.” Killing shelter pets is arguably all about the former, much though some of us view it as diametrically opposed to the latter.
The “do no harm” thing is why I believe euthanasia of healthy “unwanteds” is more aptly characterized as unenlightened rather than downright immoral. Given the ability to place far more animals than we do in today’s society, why can’t we end shelter deaths?...eventually, anyway.
Yes, considering the reality of the no-kill movement (as I see it and as professed by Nathan Winograd and by Christie Keith in her latest PetConnection blog post), changing society’s outlook on shelter pets is doable. It just takes dedication, drive, superior organizational skills at all levels of the community, and faith that it CAN be done. Alternatively, dollars will get it done. But, believe it or not, bucks are nowhere near as necessary as belief.
After all, as one of Christie’s commenters opined, “I don’t believe that anyone has ever achieved greatness by beginning with the belief that it couldn’t be done.”
So how can I condemn a fellow veterinarian for killing “sentient beasts” they believe might otherwise prove a burden to society or, indeed, to themselves? As our communities currently stand on this issue, someone has to do it? Or do they?
PS: I promise I'll post something on the lighter side tomorrow. I promise.