03 June 2017

WELFARE - The Causes and Costs of Convenience Euthanasia

“Convenience euthanasia” is an upsetting term and a tragic event.

Convenience euthanasia, also called “healthy euthanasia,” is what happens when owners are no longer willing, or sometimes able, to care for a healthy pet and opt to euthanize rather than re-home.

Many vets refuse to perform convenience euthanasia.

Didsbury Veterinary Services in Alberta, Canada, state the following: “We accept that euthanasia is part of the deal we make with our pets when we take them in to our lives. We have a responsibility to ensure that they do not suffer. Having said that, we do not think it is acceptable practice of veterinary medicine to euthanize a pet just because it is inconvenient to own it any longer.”

This mirrors the views of other vets, such as Dr. Hauser, who refused to euthanize a relatively healthy young Lab despite the fact that the dog would most likely be euthanized by someone else.

Responding to that case, Dr. Marc Rosenberg, VMD, said, “Speaking personally, I won't euthanize a pet with a potential viable option for relocation. I have to sleep at night. On the other hand, I will euthanize a pet that is reasonably healthy but has no options for a caring home. My goal is to see that my patients are not frightened and not in pain.”

The emotional cost to vets of convenience euthanasia is significant, and may be a contributor to the high rates of depression and suicidality within the profession.

However, some vets continue to offer convenience euthanasia because it can be the “least worst” option, according to veterinarian Pete Wedderburn in The Telegraph.

A refusal could mean that the animal is taken to another vet, who will perform the euthanasia. Or it could mean the animal is taken to a country road and abandoned, or worse.

Sean Wensley, the President of the British Veterinary Association, notes that, “Euthanasing an animal who could have been a loving pet is the hidden, tragic cost of poor socialisation.”

The BVA has found that a significant majority of vets have been asked to perform a healthy euthanasia, and that of these, 98% of requests were due to behavioural issues, many of which could have been prevented with proper socialization and training.

This issue has been in the press in Canada recently, with animal advocacy groups lobbying for new legislation that would make it illegal to euthanize healthy pets.

Camille Labchuk, an animal rights lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, speaking to The Globe and Mail, said, "If a child is in a situation where the parents can no longer care for that child whether the parents have financial issues, mental health issues, or they die, the government steps in and the state supports that child. Why we wouldn't do the same thing for vulnerable animals is beyond me."

Although pets are slowly gaining new legal standing in various jurisdictions, including Canada, they are still considered a form of property.

And recent legal cases in Canada have made it clear that the extension of rights and protections assigned to children will be a challenging process.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

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