Euthanasia means “good death”
One of the most challenging tasks for vets is the euthanasia of their patients. My own dog Spot, pictured above, was elderly and frail when I had to make the difficult decision to let him go. The only way that vets are able to cope ethically with the routine deliberate killing of pets is that it is nearly always done for the sake of the animal, to prevent suffering in a sick or elderly individual. However there are other times when a vet may be asked to euthanase a healthy animal, and this presents a much greater ethical challenge.
Are vets obliged to euthanase an animal if asked to do so?
While vets are allowed to decline to carry out any procedure when asked, they do need to ensure that animal suffering is stopped as promptly as possible or preferably, avoided altogether. For this reason, every vet will take a different approach when asked to euthanase a healthy animal. Most will try to find alternatives (such as rehoming the animal if possible) but still, sometimes an owner will try to insist that it is done. Some vets simply decline, while others make the judgement that if they do not euthanase the animal painlessly, the owner may go elsewhere and take a different approach (such as drowning the animal) which causes even more suffering. This is a difficult area, and I’ve explored this more in the podcast with Pat Kenny as well is in my Telegraph article.
Questions from Pat Kenny listeners
Dogs with odd behaviour, cats being imported from Canada, a feral cat with a skin rash on the head, a Jack Russell who may or may not need to be neutered. These are just some of the questions that I answer in the podcast this week.