A few weeks ago, Dave Perry wrote an opinion piece, “End the euphemism for killing unwanted dogs and cats; it’s not euthanasia.” The point that Mr. Perry was trying to make is that the word euthanasia comes from the Greek meaning “good death.” Many definitions go further to suggest that the word means to perform this good death to alleviate pain and suffering. It connotates being a good thing that we administer.
There is nothing good about the fact that we must kill animals because they are born into a world that doesn’t want them. I know, I know, the no-kill world claims that there is no pet surplus; but, they are idiots. The surplus of animals differs from community to community. It is an indicator as to a community’s sensitivity to responsible pet ownership that includes spaying and neutering their animals.
Mr. Perry focused on the usage of the word. But the act of euthanasia or “killing” takes an emotional toll on the animals and on shelter staff. Performing this act speaks to the failure that we, as humans, deal with a problem that is caused by us.
I have to agree with Mr. Perry that there is nothing good about the killing of adoptable animals in our shelters. We can attempt to soften the blow by finding a fancy word to describe our actions, but in the end the animals is dead. All we have done is to bring the least painful method to killing an animal that is stuck in a small cage. Those of us who have worked in animal shelters know that the longer an animal sits in a small cage, the more inhumane the confinement becomes. So the question is to the length of time that an animal must be held in a cage so that you can justify claiming that you are relieving the animal’s pain and suffering to call its death euthanasia. The question that is always asked is how long is too long to hold an animal while calling its confinement humane? That differs from animal to animal and it depends on the enrichment programs that are offered to the animal during its confinement. The fact that we keep an animal in a cage for two years before it begins to become cage crazy and the animal is “euthanized;” we have to ask if we should look back and claim if holding the animal for such a long period of time, only to be euthanized is humane? Probably not, but we are always hopeful for a positive outcome.
The no-kill movement doesn’t want us to blame the people responsible for causing the pet overpopulation problem; but, they want to blame the ones who must clean up the mess.