Owner Requested Euthanasia

Many animal shelters provide euthanasia services for pet owners.  I have had some pet owners give horrible reasons for wanting their pet euthanized; such as, “He is my puppy and I do not want anyone else to own him.”  For that reason, when I have worked in an animal shelter, I allow the owner to surrender the pet to the shelter.  Once the shelter takes ownership of the pet, we decide if the euthanasia request is reasonable.

I have had owners wanting to argue with me.  I have explained that they have the option to take their business to their own veterinarian.  Although my shelter exists to service the community, I felt that I had an obligation to protect pets from outrageous owners.

I’ve always tried to maintain a holding period for pet owners to cool off or time for other family members to become aware of the surrender and be able to reclaim their pet that was surrendered in anger.

Minimizing the Effect of Euthanasia on Staff

Performing euthanasia is the most stressful aspect of being an animal shelter employee. I witnessed a couple of work burnouts as a result of euthanizing animals that I had become fond of. The problem is greatest for smaller operations.

When I started out in this profession, I handled every aspect of an animal’s cycle through my shelter:

  • I was the Animal Control Officer, responsible for responding to complaints and impounding animals in the field.
  • I was the Animal Attendant, responsible for the daily care of the animals.
  • I was the Vet Tech, responsible for maintaining the daily health of the animals.
  • I was the Shelter Manager, responsible for deciding which animals needed to by euthanized due to shelter overcrowding.
  • I was the Euthanasia Tech, responsible for the euthanizing and disposal of the animals.

Although euthanasia, at any level, is stressful, compartmentalizing each aspect can reduce the stress that is experienced by any one individual.  The greatest stress reliever is to insure that the euthanasia process is handled well; by competent, caring staff.  By relieving stress on the animal, helps relieve stress on those performing the task.

The last moments of an animal’s life should be performed with the greatest compassion.