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MARY JO NAGY | Pets Owners: Take responsibility



Published: Sun, August 5, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Euthanasia is not an easy decision; however, it may be the most humane.

When is it the right time to call the vet? What is the procedure?

These are just some of the questions people ask. Many times I find myself counseling people about when it may be appropriate to put a pet to sleep. In this article, I will discuss several issues surrounding euthanasia. I will also discuss the difference between your personal decision and the difficulty a shelter faces daily with this issue.

There are many reasons people may need to end the life of a pet.

The first would be to end an animal's suffering. This could be because of age, an illness or a traumatic injury. There may be a treatment plan, but many owners can be faced with expensive veterinary bills they cannot afford. Or treatment options may be limited.

Age may just have caught up with your pet. You should never feel guilty for ending pain and suffering. Never be selfish and keep an ailing pet alive because of your own grief.

Acting out: Aggression and severe behavioral problems may also be reasons for euthanasia. I am not talking about the dog that barks frequently or pees on the kitchen floor. I am referring to animals that have bitten or shown aggression or maladaptive behaviors.

A biting dog is an insurance nightmare and a liability problem for homeowners. You cannot pass this animal on to another family.

If you do not or cannot take the time to investigate obedience training, socialization or possible medical intervention, then you should not expect others to take the burden of a severe problem animal.

There is always the issue of quality of life for a pet when considering euthanasia.

Can the pet be rehoused? If the animal will spend its life forgotten at the end of a chain or in a cage, or will be subjected to abuse or neglect, why would you keep it alive? Does this lessen your guilt?

If you cannot ensure a suitable home, euthanasia may be the only option.

When a parent or a family member dies, a pet typically gets passed on to relatives. Many older pets have problems adjusting to a new home. The transition can be difficult. If you are a family member who cannot take care of grandma's cat, your only option may be to euthanize it.

Unfortunately, there are more animals than homes in this country. Sometimes animals end up in this situation.

My most frustrating discussions are with people who are moving and have not found a way to take their pet with them. Most of these animals are well-adjusted, and their owner did not take pet ownership seriously, as they should have. It is sad when a person calls the shelter the day before moving and decides that Fluffy or Fido is not going with them.

"I can't find a rental that will take my dog," or "I do not have the deposit required," is often heard. Then they add, "But I don't want it to go to the pound. They kill them there."

Yes, they do.

I personally could not move without my pet, nor could I leave it where I would not know its fate. There are situations worse than death.

Shelter woes: Which brings us to the decisions animal shelters make on a daily basis. No shelter volunteer enjoys euthanizing animals. Until people spay and neuter to reduce unwanted litters and take pet ownership as a lifetime commitment, shelters and pounds will be faced with making decisions others won't make.

Many people like to point a finger and say I thought Angels for Animals was a no-kill shelter. No homeable animal at the shelter is put to sleep.

However, it is not inhumane to end the life of a sick, aggressive, biting or behaviorally disturbed animal.

What is more disturbing is that people dump their unwanted pets onto shelters with an array of excuses and then criticize us when euthanasia is the only option.

There is little chance of finding a perfect home for the aggressive animal, and as a result, 10 adoptable pets die waiting for a spot that never opens. We do not live in a perfect world. Angels for Animals is trying to reduce the number of unwanted pets through education, spaying and neutering and behavior consultation.

We are volunteers, not magicians.

If I could wave a magic wand, I'd make pet owners responsible. Euthanasia could then be reserved for the animals that need it.

XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.




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