Euthanasia, the Owner’s Right?

There is an uproar in Singapore because an owner had an adopted 7-month old puppy put down. The public are angry at both the owner and the vet.

The AVA has said that it is within the owner’s rights and the vet’s responsibility to advise on euthanasia and neither has broken any laws.

It is very sad when any dog needs to be put down and should be the VERY last resort.

The reason the owner Alice McElwee gave for her decision was the puppy was aggressive and bit her children.

Why is this sad + appalling?

The puppy was 7 months old, a time when they are figuring out their place in the hierarchy and also they are teething. Like teenagers, they are playing rougher and testing boundaries.

I am not condoning biting dogs and all dogs need to be trained. Some people mistake mouthing with biting but both are ways the dog is trying to communicate. We have to teach them ways to do so in a constructive and safe manner. As owners, we have taken on the commitment to provide for them, and that includes understanding the dog and its needs.

When I volunteered at the Hong Kong Dog Rescue, these stories were commonplace. We often find out that the children have been basically terrorizing the dogs. It’s not that they mean to, in many cases. But in the eyes of the puppy/dog, that’s exactly what they are doing. They are hugging tightly, squeezing them with love, pulling their tails and ears, hitting them (because they are too young to control their movement and intensity), squealing with joy…These actions and sounds are more pronounced for a dog who is still transitioning into a new environment. These are new people thrusted upon the dog, who’s been abandoned before or just taken away from its littermates and mother. Teeth are its only defense, if all the calming signals have been ignored. Moving away from an active running child may not have been possible.

There are of course aggressive dogs, as there are cruel teasing children. The point is that we have to rightly identify a dog who is truly aggressive and one being defensive and not knowing how to protect himself. Or having no one to protect him. And we have to teach our children how to interact with others, animal and human alike. With respect.

And the vet?

There are many reasons people become vets. Whether it is from a true love and understanding of animals or not, vets are often overworked and stressed. This is not an excuse but does impact decision-making. I would hope that any vet who can see that a dog is not aggressive will choose to decline to provide the service to a owner demanding euthanasia. Is there really any harm detaining the dog until further assessment can be made? In this case, the rehomer from whom Alison adopted the dog could have been contacted by the vet.

When in doubt, is it not better not to take a life?

We play God too often and too lightly when it comes to animals. It is a sad state of the union.

The Current Reality of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is unfortunately a reality at the moment. Dogs assessed to be aggressive are routinely put down, as are dogs who are deemed not adoptable or not likely to be adopted. Often this is due to lack of funds and overcrowding. In Singapore, at the SPCA, pure breed dogs are more likely to survive this process through to the adoption stage. They are seen to be more likely to be adopted.

More people are adopting dogs, rather than buying them. And more people are buying from reputable breeders rather than puppy mills and pet shops. This is all sending a message that the current state of affairs is simply wrong, and broken. 

What happens to the unsold and unwanted puppies?

The pet industry is huge, $ wise and people see profits. Do they see that these are actually lives? Hearts beating?

There are so many reasons to adopt…and so many reasons not to have a dog/cat/pet. When we make the wrong decision, our animals suffer. When we think we are ready, but are not, animals suffer. It isn’t so easy to change our minds. We can’t simply return them or exchange them. We don’t with our kids, why should we with our animals?


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