Owner Requested Euthanasia

I was recently reading an article in which a woman surrendered her dog to her local animal shelter expecting the shelter to euthanize her dog. She later discovered that her dog was still alive and had been adopted into another home. Feeling cheated, she demanded the return of her dog.

Animals are considered property, so an owner has the right to kill their pet, as long as it is done humanely. Over the years, I encountered so many lame excuses from owner deciding to euthanize their pet that I changed our policies. I got tired of hearing those lame reasons and decided someone had to act on behalf of the animals.  I decided that I could not allow pet owners to make that decision.  I won’t euthanize an animal based on their reasoning skills but felt I must use my own.  As such, I changed our policies to require any animal up for euthanasia should be the property of the animal shelter.

Sometimes it is just obvious when an animal comes through our doors that the animal needs to be euthanized. I have seen many animals that were kept long after when it should have been done and more than once I considered charging the owner with animal cruelty. If the owner has asked to be present when the animal is euthanized, I consider the animal’s condition and the competency of the person performing the euthanasia.

I make it very clear that my organization doesn’t do owner-requested euthanasia. When an owner surrenders their pet to me, it becomes mine. I decide its final fate. If I decide that the animal has been well cared for and is now in need of euthanasia; I will see that it is performed as soon as possible. If the owner wants to be present, I’ll remind them that we are euthanizing my animal and not theirs. They can always go to their own veterinarian to have “their” animal killed. But, again, if they have been good owners and I have competent staff working in the euthanasia room, I may consider allowing them to be with the animal during its’ last moment.

Let’s face it, I have had outstanding people who were a wiz at performing euthanasia, but I would never allow them to EVER talk to an owner during this sensitive time. Hell, I’ve had staff that I tried to keep from ever talking to anyone. Some people are good with animals but fail horribly being around people.

Some of the feedback on this article had many people feeling that the shelter was wrong to not euthanize the dog and even demanded that the dog be returned back to the previous owner. My response, if it had happened in my shelter, when she surrendered her dog to me, that it isn’t her dog anymore. She signed the dog over to me. I’m now the owner. I will make the decision that I think is best for the animal and if she ever came into my shelter to adopt, I would probably turn her down. I know, I know, I am a public employee whose job is to serve the people. So….. fire me!

For the most part, we public servants have to serve people, but there is a balance that must be kept and we sometimes have to stand up for the animals when they fall into the hands of stupid people. As they say, “I’m sorry if my commonsense has offended you!”