euthanasia and reality

There’s a dust-up about an animal shelter in Toronto that was found to have quite a few mistreated, malnourished animals dying in pain. The shelter happened to be a no-kill shelter in name… but from what I’ve heard, they didn’t follow the well-established policies of no-kill shelters. Clean cages and untreated painful terminal illness have nothing to do with whether the shelter is no-kill and doesn’t kill to control its population. In the U.S., the ASPCA is moving to no-kill shelters everywhere, because they work even better at improving animals lives for a given amount of money. More than not killing to solve shelter overcrowding, it’s an entire set of policies that is labeled “no-kill” by convention. Given the horror cases I’ve heard, even peta (yes, that peta) euthanizes more readily in their shelters than the shelter in Toronto, to stop suffering from terminal conditions.

I had a cat who I ordered euthanized. He had congestive heart failure, and would probably have spent several days feeling as if he were drowning, ultimately having a rather painful death while possibly alone. I was prepared to spend what would be reasonably required to make him healthy. It’s not an easy decision for anyone, and points out how humans treat the deaths of other humans differently, including euthanasia. Most people apparently consider the least cruel treatment they can afford, for any treatment a vet can provide. The way which provides the best quality of life. It’s not hard to see why we make the decision to spend money on medical procedures on a pet. When we accept them into human society as pets to be loved, we have an obligation to give them the best life possible.

Your obligation to another is identical to that being’s rights.

Pets really are creatures adapted to live inside human society. They form feral colonies otherwise, but those aren’t stable or safe in the same way as a pack of wolves or a herd of deer. They actually live much shorter lives on their own outside. A rescue cat brought to the vet seems to be considered a set of (unknown) medical problems that’s just short of an emergency. The cat may simply be too old to survive at 2 years. A house cat’s life outdoors is rough, short, and psychologically damaging. Their ideal social life is among humans, in what would otherwise be unhealthy captivity in an undomesticated species. If you doubt that pets have a personality, a psychological makeup backing the idea… consider that psychiatric medications are routinely tested on dogs to gauge their effectiveness. They’ve evolved to be with us. It is the responsibility and obligation of humans to improve their lives, wherever possible.

The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.
—Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties.… The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.
—Charles Darwin

My condolences if you need to euthanize your own pet. It’s not easy. But if you can muster it up, it’s possibly better to be there. I’ve heard several times that when their caretakers leave, pets continue to look for them.

Monday ~ December 7, 2009 by b

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