How do you know when to put your animal down? This is without a doubt, the hardest decision a pet owner will have to make. As much as it pains me to see a person euthanize their pet, there are some people who cannot make this decision. Contrary to what one may think, this often leads my coworkers and I to judge that person even harsher than if they had gone through with the euthanasia. This may sound counterintuitive. How can euthanasia to an animal lover be the right course of action? However, at the humane society, we often see that this is the better course of action. People surrender animals we know will not pass our evaluations. We tell this to the customer but they do not listen.
I once had a 13-year-old cat that was emaciated, incontinent, and simply put, ready to die. Her owner could not come to terms with it. I told her this animal would not pass our evaluations. It would be more painful for the cat to have her sit in the kennel for several days before our evaluation team could assess her than to put her down now. The merciful action was to euthanize her. Or, perhaps even better, let her go home and die in her own time. Yet, the person in front of me did not hear these words. The owner could not comprehend it. This family had too much sadness already. They had a couple of family members fall ill and as a result had some financial troubles. The consequence of people having poor lives is that the animals suffer even more. Still, although my heart went out to them, as one of my coworkers stated, “Take a moment, deal with your shit, and get it together.”
Hard decisions surround anyone who lives. The fact that you have to kill a creature you love very much is just too unbearable for many to deal with. This is responsible pet ownership though: knowing when you have offered them the best possible life and now it is time to let them give up the ghost. You can either let them pass in their own time or you can end their suffering with a fatal injection. That is much better of an action than surrendering them to a humane society. The word euthanasia in Greek means “good death.” No person I have ever met would want to go to prison for several days away from everything they have ever known, separated from their family, get led into a dark small room that smells of death, get injected with fatal plus, and then buried with the other carcasses in the landfill. If the outcome is still the same, why put your animal through the first horrifying part of it? Many people who surrender their pets believe we can heal them. But when the front desk clerk tells you there is no hope for your pet because he is simply too old, too aggressive, or beyond care, then you as the owner must take that burden on. Do not pass it off to someone else.
When my dog got sick this past year, we asked the vet for an estimation on the cost for our different options. On the list was euthanasia. If I could not heal him, I would certainly put him out of his suffering. Wrong? No. Sometimes death is a gift. When the right time to give this gift is, however, is something that no one will ever be able to tell you. People who cannot make this decision, I find, lack courage. That statement is full of judgment. Yet I see sick and dangerous animals sit in kennels for several days and I know what their outcome will be. They sit there scared, hurt, and wanting nothing more than to go home. But they will not get another home. Their owners did not give them a quiet end. Instead they chose to have their animal wait; to simply sit and have false hope of walking out. Confused. Wanting love. Not understanding what is going on around them. It is not fair to the animal. It's not fair to the people who work there. These owners pass off their guilt onto another person, not having the gull to face the decision. 'Coward' just doesn't seem like a big enough word.
How can death ever be the answer? But all life must die. Man is not God and yet we find ourselves with the opportunity to play that role. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that life must end. But it does. And someone a lot wiser than me once said, “And that’s what makes it beautiful.”