Have Animal Advocates Lost Their Wits about Euthanasia?

Have animal advocates lost their wits about euthanasia? This is a question posted on Facebook. The question asks whether it is more humane to euthanize a cat or dog in a shelter because the animal has become “unadoptable” than to keep the animal alive.

Have Animal Advocates Lost Their Wits about Euthanasia?

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The argument put forward by one writer is that it is selfish and not compassionate of us to fail to euthanize an animal under certain circumstances. In other words, death is a better path than a life which is uncomfortable, perhaps miserable for the animal.

The author says that we hold on too long (to the life of the animal) and it is cruel to do so. We do it with good intentions but that does not excuse it. And the problem is not only encountered in shelters. We see it at home when an owner holds on too long for selfish reasons and not for the love of the animal (I agree that the decision to euthanize one’s cat is one of the most difficult we have to make).

The argument is that the rescue world needs more people with “fortitude”. People who aren’t afraid of a peaceful death or afraid of breaking ‘idealisms’. The rescue should be determined to end suffering and the best way to do that is to end their lives.

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The key to the argument is that we need to END actual suffering (the author capitalized the word). The author is T. Creamer, Director of Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue. He’s a horse rescuer and he advocates euthanasia over holding on too long which he regards as being selfish.

I don’t know how many rescues could be criticized for doing this. A lot of the cat rescues I read about on Facebook start off their posts with the words “timestamped for euthanasia”. I don’t see any selfishness or reluctance to euthanize a cat in that phrase. All these cats are on death row. Great efforts are made to get them fostered or adopted. The author, however, is criticizing no-kill shelters. His thoughts are also in line with those of PETA.

The Slippery Slope Argument

A lot of people agree with the sentiments. The comments below the article are almost universally in support of what he says. I think, though, you have to be careful. If you euthanize too freely you facilitate the “processing” of abandoned pets. If pet owners want to get rid of their dog or cat and they know that rescues kill the animals in their charge quickly without questions, the rescue organisation is condoning by implication the abandonment of pets. It is supporting their abandonment (getting rid of) by facilitating it.

It’s the old adage which we hear regarding humans. A lot of people think that humans should have the right to choose when they die whether they are ill or not. There are laws against it. The laws are there to protect people from abuses and from themselves. It is the slippery slope argument. If euthanasia becomes too easy life becomes too cheap. If euthanasia at cat rescues is treated as the default humane solution you are cheapening the value of the lives of these animals. This leads to increased animal abuse and a decrease in animal welfare.

Mr Creamer does not mention this counterargument. He encourages and advocates euthanasia over keeping unwanted cats and dogs alive in shelters but he may be encouraging the inhumane consequences of this which I would argue are not quite so welcome.

I don’t think animal advocates have lost their wit about euthanasia. They sometime, rightly, struggle with it, because it reflects the struggle for live, for survival. We must respect life. But I agree that there are times when euthanasia is best. And that applies to humans too. I am for euthanasia in humans provided it is carefully regulated.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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4 Responses

  1. Frances A Danna says:

    In my opinion I would always choose life over death for an animal, unless a major health issue becomes irreversible and placing that animal in extreme distress.

    I agree with your statement, “If euthanasia becomes too easy life becomes too cheap. If euthanasia at cat rescues is treated as the default humane solution you are cheapening the value of the lives of these animals. This leads to increased animal abuse and a decrease in animal welfare.” ?

    • Michael Broad says:

      Thanks a lot Frances. It is a difficult point to get over. But it is why we don’t allow euthanasia for people. Do animals have to be second class all the time? It does depend on the circumstances as obviously euthanasia can be the best option but it must be the last option too.

  2. M E King says:

    When humans are exposed to mass euthanasia in shelters we create monsters who have to become monsters in order to do the job.
    Domestic pets belong in a home not sequestered in cages and kennels often for years with scant time to interact with humans. Like humans animals can develop behavior issues when confined without enough mental and physical stimulation.
    Small rescues can become hoarding situations because the number of unwanted pets far exceeds demand.
    Each and every pet owner becomes responsible for all of the unwanted, lost and never loved when they do not spay and neuter.
    Oddly this plays right into the Western Governors Associations idea that cats are an invasive species. They may use the word feral to soften the idea to cat guardians who don’t quite get where this is going to go if left unchecked.
    In my mind euthanasia is an act of love. Animals in shelters are killed often to make room for more unwanted and dumped family members.
    Shelters take pets often at little or no cost because if they were to charge what it costs to take care of and eventually dispose of the unwanted family member that cat or dog would simply be dumped somewhere.

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