Save Healthy Animals from Untimely Deaths at Vets’ Hands

Target: Dr. John de Jong, President-Elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Goal: Provide veterinarians with a better framework to navigate the  ethical issues surrounding euthanasia with compassion and clarity.

Euthanasia is often seen as a humane option for animals facing debilitating pain or death. Yet a recent survey in the United Kingdom found that 98 percent of veterinarians had been asked to euthanize a pet with no health issues. Similar stories unfold every day in the United States, forcing veterinarians to make an untenable choice between the welfare of their patients and the wishes of pet owners.

Reasons for euthanizing a healthy pet are as complex as the issue itself. Behavioral problems such as extreme aggression must be considered, but even in these extreme cases death should be the last viable recourse. In a large percentage of cases, however, no behavioral problems exist. Many owners choose to euthanize their pets when they feel unable to care for the animals. Moving, financial hardship, or the owner’s own imminent passing often underlie these cases. Should the life of an animal who might otherwise enjoy a long, healthy life be dependent on the life of its owner?

Unlike humans, animals cannot make a choice to end their lives. These dependent beings are at the mercy of statutes and laws, and these statutes should be carefully crafted with the best interest of the living being most affected in mind. Currently, pet owners can have their animal euthanized without even providing a reason. Unfortunately, some individuals will use this leeway to rid themselves of an inconvenient responsibility.

Just as a physician vows to “first do no harm,” a veterinarian’s primary concern should always be for his or her patient. Sign this petition today and demand the American Veterinary Medical Association enact stronger, more specific guidelines and prohibitions relating to the euthanasia of healthy pets.


Dear Dr. de Jong,

Desperate parents take their special needs child to a doctor. The physician recommends therapy, medication, even adoption for the child. But the parents are insistent. They are emotionally spent. They can no longer care for the child physically or financially. They do not believe the child will go to another home. They want their child euthanized. The doctor is reluctant but ultimately obliges.

This scenario would horrify many, yet variations play out in veterinary clinics countrywide. Most veterinarians can recount multiple instances where pet owners have requested euthanasia for a healthy animal. Sometimes these cases are understandable, such as the dog who has attacked neighborhood children or the aging cat who will be displaced when its owner passes. But in countless cases, the waters are far murkier. What about the family who is moving across states and simply cannot afford the added burden? Or what about the eager young person who adopted a pet from a shelter and subsequently found the responsibility too much to handle? These animals did not have a choice in their circumstance, nor will they ultimately have a say in the end of their life.

The first obligation of veterinary medicine is the care and welfare of animals. Just as the child described above deserves a voice, so do these vulnerable animals. The burden and sleepless nights invoked from ending the life of a healthy animal should not be the inevitable responsibility of veterinarians.

Please begin a meaningful discussion and use the full force of your animal welfare ambassadors to craft new, more stringent recommendations concerning pet euthanasia. Do this for the professionals that represent you and for all the living beings you are honored with representing.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Judi Bung

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  2. Linda Hilty-Tuttle says:

    NO,the life of an animal who might otherwise enjoy a long, healthy life should NOT BE DEPENDENT on the life of its owner! A pet cannot speak for itself, so the Vet must intervene and offer the unwanted pet a chance for a new life in whatever way possible!! We need more in-depth discussion regarding ‘automatic’ euthanasia decisions!

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