By Kim-Vi Sweetman
Elm Staff Writer
Anyone who’s ever volunteered at an animal rescue/sanctuary – small animal, large animal, wildlife, etc. – has probably encountered the question: How do you feel about euthanasia or in other words, “putting a animal to sleep?” The application form usually goes on to tell you that, yes, you are likely to encounter euthanasia during your time as a volunteer.
The rescue/sanctuary might tell you why you would encounter euthanasia, or it might have contact information if you should have any questions or concerns. For some people, the process stops there, immediately, and I wish it didn’t. For others, they can deal with it until they encounter euthanasia face to face, and then they have to stop. To them I would ask that they give it another chance.
Let me give you a brief background before you bite my head off: I want to be a veterinarian, and I have had pets that had to be euthanized. I have also worked at rescues, I have encountered euthanasia while working, and I will encounter it again. I understand how hard it is to be told that an animal you have a close relationship with is going to die.
This article is a bit of a personal plea on my part towards those who oppose euthanasia, for whatever reason. If you want a natural death for the animal, I ask that you consider what this natural death will entail: if euthanasia is being considered, the animal is most likely in pain, has a very low quality of life, and a slim hope of recovery. Is their suffering really worth your pride?
To those who say that there is no animal that should be euthanized solely for behavioral problems, and that someone will want them, I say: Yes there are, and no, there isn’t always someone. A staff member at a rescue had to be taken to the hospital and have several inches of intestine removed after an encounter with one such animal. Training and rehabilitation was not helping that creature. Euthanasia gives a peaceful ending to what might otherwise be a traumatizing life.
Recently, while skimming through Facebook for pages related to a rescue I’ve worked at, I found a page calling for the halt of euthanasia of the rescue’s animals. Thinking (hoping) that it would be a well-informed group – since they obviously felt so strongly about it – I clicked the page. I wish I hadn’t. The attached website was very clearly made during one, or several, highly emotional moments by a young person.
Now, this person had volunteered at the rescue and had encountered euthanasia of one of their favorite animals. However, instead of having a conversation with the staff, they threw one-sided arguments, and shut their eyes and stopped up their ears to what they were being told. As for how I know all of this, they put their e-mails up on the site for everyone to read. While part of it was youth, I think a lot of their misunderstanding had to do with the vehement rejection of reality. I wish people would do less of this and more research, discussion, and try to see things from other perspectives.
So what’s the deal with people? Aren’t we animals, too?
How many readers have seen the show House, MD? Right now an image of Hugh Laurie with a cane and snarky attitude are probably coming to mind. There’s an episode where a scientist is admitted with a fatal condition. In the episode is a moment where House describes how the man’s death will be if he does not cooperate: it will not be quick, and it will not be painless. Every breath will cause agony, and the effort to simply breath will be enormous and painful. The man will suffer slowly until he cooperates with the staff. Meanwhile, the scientist has been telling House to essentially give him a lethal injection, to euthanize him.
In complete understanding, the man repeats the facts back: without euthanasia, he will die slowly. Every breath will be in agony. Every attempt to breath will hurt. He will suffer, he will be in pain, and he will be alone until his final breath rattles out of his old, thin body.
Would you want to suffer like that?