Continued from last week

We will continue today analyzing the questionable arguments that develop when a person wants to self-justify reasons for killing his/her pet.

I never cease to be amazed at the hypocrisy exhibited in all spheres of human existence and endeavour – be it religion, sport, caring for the elderly, politics, school management, and, yes, altruism especially when it concerns animal welfare.

So many caregivers insist that they love their pets unconditionally. Yet, when crunch time comes along to prove that love, a whole different agenda of selfishness emerges. I am not speaking of the pet owner unwittingly ‘spoiling’ the animal – for example, by giving the dog sweet treats as a ‘reward’ or as a demonstration of love for the animal. Such actions, that essentially harm the animal, are born of non-knowledge, and it is we vets who should take some blame for not optimally educating our clients about dog and cat nutrition, and about the dire consequences of offering our pets health-damaging foods.

pet cornerNo, I am referring to a ‘loving’ pet owner opting to put faithful ‘Rover’ to sleep, because the owner is re-locating (change of address). Such persons might argue that the new house is too small or that the new landlord is clear about not having pets in the house/apartment, and therefore it is better to put the animal to sleep and save everybody a headache. Another version, even worse, is that since I am moving and can’t take care of the pet in the way to which it has become accustomed, and since no one else can possibly possess the capacity to care for ‘Rover’ the way I can, it is better to euthanise the pet.

Well, I just don’t buy this latter reason. But, please don’t misunderstand my position on this dilemma. After many decades of interacting with pet owners, I understand quite well that, in life, circumstances change, and some pets really cannot remain with the caregiver. This may be not anyone’s fault. Pet owners lose jobs, lose their homes, increase their work hours, are forced to seek accommodation where pets are not allowed in the home as a pre-condition for rental; some caregivers might have to go overseas. My argument is that under such circumstances, the knee-jerk reaction should not automatically be euthanasia. Serious and concerted attempts have to be made by either finding a new home, or placing the animal in the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter for adoption.

Some pet owners, when confronted with this dilemma, quickly come to the conclusion that (i) the animal will not feel at home in the new environment, and (ii) no one else can care for the pet the way they did. My answers are – relative to (i), dogs (and cats) react to tender loving care (TLC) very quickly, and will transfer their affections quite easily to the new owners; and relative to (ii), well, there is a touch of arrogance there for sure. Other kind and compassionate pet caregivers can and do offer the newly adopted animal superlative treatment and TLC. And the animals do respond.

At least check out the potential caregivers, speak to them about ‘Rover’s’ idiosyncrasies and his particular likes and dislikes. So many people would care well for your pet even if not as well as you would have. But, the alternative of immediately killing the animal when a crisis emerges, is indeed much worse. You could even arrange for the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter (ACS) to visit and monitor the pet in its new home – with the understanding that if any expressions of cruelty are discernable, the ACS can withdraw the animal from the new environment which is proving to be not in the interest of the pet.

The point is simply euthanasia is a last, last resort.

Another reason proffered, one that really should aggravate a veterinarian or any animal lover, is the argument that it is ‘no big thing’ to euthanize a valueless mongrel as compared with a special (expensive) breed dog (a German Shepherd, for example).

Well, that line of thinking is not acceptable, at least not acceptable to genuine animal lovers. There really is no such thing as a ‘valueless’ pet. When it was young and cute, it surely gave happiness (=value) to its owner. The value of life of a common breed dog (or a poor beggar) is no different, ethically/morally speaking, from a dog with a lot of pedigree paperwork.

And let us carry this thought a bit further. The idea of ‘cheapness,’ therefore easy disposability, can probably explain why pet fish, birds, turtles and hamsters are so easily brought to clinics for killing by professionals or just flushed down the toilet at home, or disposed of in some other cruel manner. In a nutshell, such pet owners’ attitude is: “If the pet is easy and/or cheap to acquire, then why should we spend money for treatment. Let’s kill it. We can just go out and procure a new one.

Why? I’ll tell you why. When one obtains a pet (through purchase from a pet shop/puppy farm or as a gift), one makes a moral decision, a moral contract relative that animal’s life. One makes the moral commitment to take care of it, and be its custodian, advocate and guardian. A life is a life. These creatures are not just inanimate objects. They, like us, are fellow travellers and get only one shot on this spaceship, Earth. Don’t end that life prematurely.


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