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Thread: Animal euthanasia - a responsibility or cruelty?

  1. #1
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    Default Animal euthanasia - a responsibility or cruelty?

    What are your thoughts on animal euthanasia?

    My family has a dog whom has been a part of our family since 1999. He's about 15 (we rescued him when he was 1 or 2 - he came from an abusive home and the rescue center didn't know his exact age) and his age has really caught up to him now.

    He's lived a very happy life - he's always had our companionship as well as the companionship of other dogs on our 5-acre property in the country. He's always been very loving and very loved.

    Now, he's in constant pain, is mostly deaf, and can't see out of one eye. He used to have good days, but it seems like the good days are rapidly becoming fewer and fewer. Sometimes he refuses to eat because he hurts so much. It's heartbreaking.

    After much discussion, my family decided it's time to put him down. We're taking him tomorrow morning to have him euthanized (and I will be there with him, holding and comforting him, until his last breath). I abstained from giving my input because I was torn about the situation.

    Which is more ethical - to let a suffering dog have his pain ended or to wait until there is no more happy days at all and let nature take its course? Do we put him down to relieve his pain or do we let him live?

    My thoughts go back and forth - on one hand, he still does have an occasional good day. He still seems happy through the pain much of the time. On the other hand, it's unbearable to see him hurting so much, to look into his eyes and see how miserable he is.

    Which is more humane?

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    Pea-utiful... Peabrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Firstly, I deeply sympathise with you, and I can understand why you abstained from this decision. It's one of the reasons I don't have any pets (the other reasons are myself and my husband being allergic to some animals, and the issues around feeding carnivorous animals, but also the responsibility of caring for a life and making decisions such as spaying/neutering, vaccines, and certain medical treatments)...

    I personally couldn't make an absolute statement about the ethics of this, as I don't think I'm expert enough to know all the issues and rights/wrongs... But my personal feeling is that, as long as there's no selfish reasons (such as it being "too much hard work" to look after a sick animal who would otherwise have a reasonable quality of life) - and let me add that it doesn't sound like your family are being selfish at all - and there truly is no hope of recovery, combined with a drastically diminished quality of life (such as pain or disability that cannot be treated adequately), then I can see why people feel that it's kinder to end their lives gently, rather than have them endure suffering until nature takes it's course.

    Sadly nature doesn't always end suffering in a timely manner. I have a friend, whose mother had cancer, and for 7 years, she endured tremendous pain. She was given extremely high doses of morphine etcetera, but sometimes screamed incessantly for hours because of her pain. I think if that happened to me, I would be begging for euthanasia... I'm sorry if my story saddens or upsets you, but it is an illustration for why I do believe in euthanasia for humans, so it follows that it may be something that is good for animals. The main difference is that they cannot speak, and we have to sensitively try to understand their happiness or unhappiness.

    I know I haven't outright said it's either humane or not, but I hope what I have said will help you at least, to know your own mind on the subject.

    In whatever case, please accept a cyber-hug, and I wish you and your family, and most of all, your dog, peace tomorrow.

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    Abe Froman Risker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Quote DancingVegan View Post
    Which is more ethical - to let a suffering dog have his pain ended or to wait until there is no more happy days at all and let nature take its course? Do we put him down to relieve his pain or do we let him live?
    I would say it's kinder to have the pain ended. Continuing to live would be more about other peoples feelings than the dogs. If you're dead you can't regret not being alive.
    "I don't want to live on this planet any more" - Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    The problem with animals is they can't tell us how badly they are suffering. And sometimes you can't really tell (unless an animal is screaming in pain). I'm of the opinion that it is far more humane to euthanize an animal that is in pain when you know the animal will die eventually anyway (as in the case with cancer).

    If you are still uncertain what to do, mentally imagine yourself as your pet and let your empathy guide you.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    I completely sympathise with you, its a hard decision to make and I agree with Tabbycat:

    Quote Tabbycat View Post
    If you are still uncertain what to do, mentally imagine yourself as your pet and let your empathy guide you.
    Quote Tabbycat View Post
    The problem with animals is they can't tell us how badly they are suffering.

    Its also worth remembering that animals will often hide the pain - I found this from a vets website:
    "It is instinctive for animals to hide their weaknesses, not to bring attention to them. In the wild, an injured wolf that whines will attract predators like a garbage truck attracts flies. It would be suicide in the wild for an injured wolf to whine or cry out, so they don't.

    We also expect painful animals to be inactive. That is what we would do. But a seriously painful wolf who looks like a seriously injured wolf is at a much greater risk of being attacked than one who does not seem so helpless. A painful wolf that doesn't stay with the pack attracts predators like he was sitting on a serving tray. So they continue to stay with the pack move and act as normally as possible.


    We also expect injured animals to quit eating, especially animals with dental pain, because that is what we think would do (even though we don't). But a wolf with a broken tooth that stops eating rapidly becomes a thin, weak, mal-nourished wolf with a broken tooth and becomes a prime target for predators. So they continue to eat through the pain."

    Therefore its imperative to remember that even though a companion animal may not outwardly show that they are in pain, they may be suffering far more than we think.

    We do have a Poll/Thread about this*, which may offer more guidance (my own two pennies worth is here) - the poll results demonstrated that most people supported Euthanasia when all other options have been exhausted.

    *Please don't think I am being rude by pointing you towards this other thread, I have pointed it out as it has 4 pages of posts which may provide you some guidance/comfort.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    IMO, euthanasia ("mercy killing") is not a strictly vegan issue. I don't think there will be a separate vegan and non-vegan answer to the question. The relationship that one has with a pet (animal in one's care) or loved one will present the same conundrum. Our thoughts are usually guided by a love and respect for those suffering. However, I will say that what people regard as euthanasia in animal shelters is another matter entirely. This is often performed on healthy animals and not always with the least painful (humane) methods of killing and is simply not "other regarding" (see Peabrain's good point - it is merely making way for more animal UNITS to be put in the same situation). The latter is killing given a veneer of compassion.
    Last edited by fiver; May 11th, 2013 at 08:21 AM.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Quote fiver View Post
    However, I will say that what people regard as euthanasia in animal shelters is another matter entirely. This is often performed on healthy animals [...]
    Yes, I think in those cases it's not even fitting of the definition of Euthanasia, it's an entirely merciLESS act.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Euthanasia in shelters is a difficult issue. If animals are suffering living feral lives or going to be stuck in a small space in a shelter all there lives I think it might be kinder to put them to sleep. It's a horrible thing to say but there are too many animals and not enough homes. It's totally our fault we should be bringing in laws to stop animals being breed.

    I used to volunteer at a shelter, it was no kill but it meant lots of animals were turned away. There were some animals there that were stuck in small runs and had very little interaction with people, they had been there for 2 years. They were well looked after but as one of the guys who worked there said they are basically in prison.

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    Pea-utiful... Peabrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    I can see what you mean, but I think if I was in great pain and physically destined to die anyway, then euthansia would be fitting. However, if I was in prison*, I'd still think that would be preferable to death, and of course the animals may eventually get re-homed whereas a terminal illness has no hope of improvement.

    *ETA - the prison metaphor being a well cared for but "hemmed in" life, rather than an actual human prison with all the issues (drugs, violence etc) that occur in those...

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    Bad Buddhist Clueless Git's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Simple matter ..

    People look for the formula that, when our pets are close to pegging it, tells us the perfect choice to make.

    Taking ownership of another living being is an imperfect choice in the first place.

    This is like mathematics; An imperfect input early in an equation makes perfect output further down the line impossible.


    Personaly I have a pet. An imperfect choice to have made. I just accept that, come her time, I will have to make a further choice that cannot possibly be perfect.
    All done in the best possible taste ...

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    My thought to most things like this is to step away and think what would happen naturally without human intervention. Generally it comes back to survival of the fittest as in the animal kingdom.

    You need to think what would happen naturally.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Quote Normal Vegan View Post

    You need to think what would happen naturally.
    Why?

    Anyway, why exclude human actions from nature? We are part of it.
    "I don't want to live on this planet any more" - Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Please correct me if this doesn't conflict with general vegan beliefs. Why do I have the right to decide how any other being lives dies or leads its life.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    The problem is peabrain that all the shelters are full so are turning thousands of animals away at the moment. Then the owner who can't care for the animal, some of them for very genuine reasons like being made homeless or not being able find anywhere to rent that will take animals, are either going to dump the animal or taken to a vet and ask them to put them to sleep. The ones that find a place in the shelter are living a restricted life but they are the lucky ones.

    You need to think what would happen naturally.
    Wouldn't the animal die in pain and alone if we lived by nature?
    Last edited by Mymblesdaughter; May 13th, 2013 at 09:41 PM.

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    Abe Froman Risker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Quote Normal Vegan View Post
    Please correct me if this doesn't conflict with general vegan beliefs. Why do I have the right to decide how any other being lives dies or leads its life.
    I see your point, and in cases where it's done for personal gain I agree, but when it's entirely benevolent it's not really about having the right to do it. You wouldn't leave someone suffering a heart attack to die if they couldn't ask for help.
    "I don't want to live on this planet any more" - Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

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    Bad Buddhist Clueless Git's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Quote Normal Vegan View Post
    Please correct me if this doesn't conflict with general vegan beliefs. Why do I have the right to decide how any other being lives dies or leads its life.
    You recognise taking ownership of animals as being questionably vegan too?
    All done in the best possible taste ...

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    I think veganism is about not exploiting animals not about humans intervening in animals lives. I don't have a problem with helping an animal out in the same way I would help a human out.
    I don't think survival of the fittest is a way a vegan would think about things, I certainly don't. If we did we'd think it was fine to exploit and eat animals.

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    I agree that putting down a companion animal because it's in pain that can't be alleviated, and/or has a poor quality of life that isn't going to improve, is a completely separate proposition from putting down a healthy animal because a home can't be found. The first one can be seen as a kindness but the second one is at best a regrettable necessity

    I don't know what the answer is though because as Mymblesdaughter says there aren't enough homes to go round in a lot of places. Turning them away because there isn't room doesn't really address the problem. I agree a prohibition on breeding cats, dogs etc for sale would be ideal.

    I can sort of understand the point of view that vegans shouldn't have companion animals, but if you do have them you have to take responsibility for their welfare and that can include putting them down if it's in their best interests. You have already intervened at that point, I suspect there aren't many 15-year-old dogs and 25-year-old cats in the wild.

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    Quote harpy View Post
    I suspect there aren't many... 25-year-old cats in the wild.
    Cats can live to 25? :O
    Houmous atá ann!

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    Default Re: Animal Euthanasia - A Responsibility or Cruelty?

    Quote Blueberries View Post
    Cats can live to 25? :O
    So I hear - not that common but I believe 21 or 22 is getting reasonably common. I think there have been cats that lived into their 30s.

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    Quote harpy View Post

    So I hear - not that common but I believe 21 or 22 is getting reasonably common. I think there have been cats that lived into their 30s.
    Wow! I thought that cats only lived about 15 years, similar to dogs.
    Houmous atá ann!

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    Default Re: Animal euthanasia - a responsibility or cruelty?

    I feel for you, this must be a really painful experience for you and your family. I have a dog friend, and I've no idea what I would do in this situation. I feel that there is no right or wrong answer. I guess I agree with the person who posted earlier that their "personal feeling is that, as long as there's no selfish reasons (such as it being "too much hard work" to look after a sick animal who would otherwise have a reasonable quality of life) - and let me add that it doesn't sound like your family are being selfish at all - and there truly is no hope of recovery, combined with a drastically diminished quality of life (such as pain or disability that cannot be treated adequately), then I can see why people feel that it's kinder to end their lives gently, rather than have them endure suffering until nature takes it's course."

    I really think there are no clearcut answers on this one, but it sounds like the decision was made from a place of care, and compassion. Big hugs to you all, for what it's worth!

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    Default Re: Animal euthanasia - a responsibility or cruelty?

    Not long ago, my girlfriend and I found a young doe at the foot of our driveway. She was obviously severely injured and lying on her side. Her midsection felt lumpy, her breath was ragged, her tongue lolled out, her mouth was oozing a small amount of blood, and she had a pretty nasty cut on her rump. We were able to squat down and touch her gently, and she seemed to lose her fear of us, but she was obviously in great pain, possibly even delirious. Since deer are frequently hit by cars, we figured that's what happened. We debated and decided, with heavy hearts, that the only kind thing we could do was try to call the local police and ask if they could send someone to help her move on. The county police were rather rude, but the cops from the next town over agreed to do this. We didn't want to see it happen, so we went up the driveway and inside the house. Next time we went out, we could see it had been done in an obviously swift and considerate way (they must have to do this a lot).

    It wasn't an easy decision to make, but it seemed obvious that this young doe was going to die unpleasantly in her condition, so it didn't seem right to allow this suffering to continue.

    We've also put down three of four cats that we've lost because they were old, sick and were only going to get worse (the fourth cat died naturally of old age and exhibited healthy behavior right up until the end, despite having renal failure). We cried all three times. It's a difficult decision, but it's also unfair to the cat if we know from a vet we trust that the cat's health will only decline rapidly and cause increasing amounts of general pain. We'd rather our charges move on with happy memories, not painful ones.

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    made of soil soilman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Animal euthanasia - a responsibility or cruelty?

    Of course we can't ask the animal - but we can't always ask humans, either. In addition, we can't inform the animal of all its options either. So even if we could ask it, it couldn't always make an informed decision.

    So once we have begun interfering with an animal's life, and taking responsibility for its well-being, instead of allowing it to develop naturally in its natural family and ecology, we have to work from the point of view, what would I want done it it were me, or a member of my family who is unable to communicate.

    Although not suitable for all animals, morphine is effective in easing pain and suffering in dogs, and it is not extremely expensive, is very affordable actually, as is methadone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and fentanyl. These opioids alone or in combination will handle just about any level of pain, even with just oral or transdermal dosing, although at very high doses for very severe pain, it may hasten the animal's death.

    I would simply give the animal just enough morphine so that it appears to be comfortable, and repeat that, as often as necessary. It the dose that is just sufficient to relieve its pain is so high that it kills the animal - it will die without discomfort. This is probably the most humane way to cause its death. If the dose that is just sufficient to relieve its pain does not kill the animal, it may live many months or years, in complete comfort, very often remaining awake and alert. This is what I would want done for me, or for any family member who didn't specify somethng different. This is how a relative with a terminal illness was treated - they call it palliative care - taking oral morphine and hydromorphine, in pill form. She was perfectly comfortable, alert and awake, and cheerful, until the moment she died. She was prescribe pills, and took them herself, as needed. Although she was not able to get to the pharmacy herself - they had to be delivered, or picked up by a helper.

    The only difficulty I can see with this solution, is that although from a practical standpoint, it is very humane and effective, there are political and cultural issues revolving around the use of opioids, in many countries, and this may cause veterinarians to be reluctant to prescribe it, fearing diversion into the black market where it will be bought for use by humans, either for "recreational" use or for people in pain who are having trouble getting enough morphine prescribed for their pain, legally, or they may fearing stigmatization, or harrassment, and systematic oppression, by law enforcement people, and professional organizations of their colleages. So I don't know how veterinarians will react for a request for morphine for an animal, in various countries. They may insist on you bringing the dog down to their office so that they can dose the animal themselves - which can drive up the cost quite a lot. Or they may rather euthanize a dog right away, that could remain perfectly comfortable, awake, and alert, on morphine, for months or year. In short, they may rather kill a dog than risk name-calling and stigmatization, or risk governmental use of force to imprison them, or damage their livelyhoods.

    But I really think that from a practical standpoint, this is the best solution, although to implement it in some countries, you may have to pay the very high cost of having it administered daily by a veterinarian, or you may have to move to another country.
    Last edited by soilman; Dec 1st, 2013 at 12:46 AM.
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