Welcome to Southwest Florida German Shepherd Rescue Inc., Anonymous Sunday, May 26 2024 @ 11:37 am UTC


  • Sunday, July 26 2015 @ 04:06 pm UTC
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The decision to terminate the life of a pet is one that should never be taken lightly. Whether by a shelter or by an owner, the decision, if you are a dog lover, is never easy and often times has multiple facets in the decision process.

This article will attempt to discuss some of those issues and attempt to explain, according to my personal experiences, what those elements of the decision process are and how each relates to the final decision.

There are animals whose health is such that euthanasia is by far the most humane thing to do ‘for’ the pet because he has no way to think or decide for himself. When an animal is in pain, when there is no medical hope or remedy or when the animal is mentally deficient to the extent he is unmanageable or dangerous, contagious or putting other people and animals at unnecessary risk, a choice of euthanasia is a reasonable and acceptable choice.

One needs to explore the issues you face in a manner that gives the pet the greatest chance of survival yet keeps in prospective the damage that can occur or the pain the pet could inflict if a decision isn’t reached in a timely manner.

First the easiest, and most understandable issues are sicknesses and age related cases. When our animals reach an age there they can no longer function normally as members of the family, these pets need our help in compassionately putting them to sleep. No one likes to think of the case where their beloved best friend (you and I) has to decide if they are live on another day or pass away with love and dignity. I have had to make these decisions numerous times and not one was without emotion and none were ever easy.

When I lost my Brandon who was connected at my hip and in my heart, more so than any other animal and I have ever been connected to, the decision came as the hardest one I had ever (or will ever have) made.

When Brandon could no longer get up, raise his head or do much more than want to be cuddled, I knew it was time. He spent months in diapers as we had no problem with is incontinence so long as he was with me. We spent his last days on the kitchen floor with me sleeping by his side. Even my cat and all six of my other dogs and 2 other cats came to say goodbye and rest a while beside him. I knew he wanted to be with me and surely will be in the future but in the here and now, it was my job as his owner, care taker, pack leader, master and best friend to allow him to say good-bye with dignity.

There was an incident that I will relate to you where 3-4 weeks before I made that horribly hard decision that Brandon was doing very poorly. He had leukemia and was going down hill fast. He was almost 15. He had gone through 3 major surgery’s in the last 3 years, each one saving his life. He was so weak in his final days that he couldn’t get up at all and you could sense his pain and frustration. My wife and I decided to take him to our vet that day. We gave him his favorite foods, I slept with him that prior night on the floor and hugged him so I would never forget his fur, his feeling and his essence and that he would know I was there for him in every way possible. I picked him up, all 85 pounds, and laid him gently into the truck on his blanket. We drove to the vet’s office in tears and feeling like empty and lost.

We were moved to a special room where he was made comfortable and an IV was administered. We decided to sit with him for an hour or so and speak with him so he knew what we were doing and why.

Our words were barely audible and yet he was focused on each word he heard. After about a half an hour, he suddenly wanted to get up. Of course we let him move around but he still had the IV port in his forepaw. He told me he had to pee, so I gingerly walked him outside and he peed. After he relived himself he gave me the eye telling me he was ready to go home. His eyes were bright and sharp and his step was clean and unwavering. His posture straight and erect and his focus was clearly on getting into the truck to go home. I was blown away. A gift from somewhere to be allowed to spend more time with him, all the while knowing that it was temporary. I didn’t care. I yanked the IV and he jumped into the truck with this new sense of power and we all went home. My wife and I were blown away. My best friend Bill was there with me to help me cope and he too was blown away with the events. My vet staff couldn’t believe their eyes and cheered him getting a reprieve yet I knew that it was to be short lived. This generous last effort he gave to me is in some part why I work so hard to help save dogs whenever I can and in any breed category or in any home.

Brandon did succumb to his disease some weeks later but he made my life that much richer and compete and for that I cannot ever express my joy. There are times with me that I showed more love to my Brandon then I may have to my own mother in her last days, yet the emotion was equal and the loss of my mom was surely a dark day yet not disproportionate to the loss of Brandon.

No one can ever say when the right time is to put a pet down but somehow those of us with that ‘pet sense’ and human compassion seem to know and hopefully will do the right thing for their friend at the right time. No one wants to see a pet in pain, without any dignity or in a condition that is not conducive to normal life. If your pet can’t be cured, if your pet would unnecessarily suffer from injury or disease or if your pet is of the age when quality of life is non-existent, then making such a decision may be the right thing; but only you can say.

The second and more difficult decisions are when a pet isn’t sick or old, but rather when this animal is dangerous to you or your family and other pets or people, that a decision needs to be made to possibly put the animal down.

As a rescue we see pets being turned into us left and right that are untrained, misbehaving, unruly and unfocused. These pets, unlike those that are aggressive, dangerous, infectious or un-handleable need our compassion and not our wrath. These pets may in fact be recovered and rehabilitated by professional trainers capable of such transformations. Unfortunately we are not a rehabilitation center but a rescue, whose focus is clearly re-homing. When a pet is untrained it may revert to certain behaviors that render it unmanageable. Only a true behaviorists with expertise can say that a particular animal has a screw loose, but because we have done so many and have seen more than 2000 GSD in our 25 years, we believe we have the ability to make that determination. If we determine that a dog brought to us has these traits which render him dangerous we will not accept him in rescue. We do turn down 7 out of 10 of these problematic dogs. I would not put a family or individual at risk and therefore the dogs I take in are all dogs I would personally keep or have in my pack and family.

Because everyone makes a mistake now and again, we have taken a few dogs in that turned out to be a problem and we have recovered them and had them put down. It is a hard decision but surely we would not knowingly place a dog in a home that could be a danger to the family or other animals. Regardless of the ownership of the dog, regardless of how long we had him, we always agonizing over a decision of euthanasia or rejection from entry into our rescue. Dogs we do take in are committed to for life, so we have every intention of making the right decision.

There are dogs whose temperament and lineage have a predisposition to aggression and yet other just have a screw loose. Some of these dogs unknowingly go to unsuspecting families. They are sold to them by idiots, back yard breeders and pet stores. They are listed on Craig’s list, offed by friends and picked up at Mall parking lots. These dogs may have latent issues that are triggered down the line. If their original breeding was as a working dog and they go to a family unwilling to train them or spend the time needed to excise the dogs energy, they dog may revert back to a somewhat violent stage and demand, in his or her way, attention. If the dogs don’t se you and your family as alpha they may feel they have to protect you from your family and can, at times, become very aggressive to family members they don’t particularly care for. If they don’t get the dominance they need or the training they have to have, they may also act out and cause someone to get bitten. If they are not under control they can become destructive and possibly dangerous. You cannot let a dog be the master of a home. No matter if the dog was adopted as a puppy or as an adult dog, these characteristics are in his DNA and can rear up at any time. Once they show themselves it is your job as an owner to take some form of action to avert an avoidable disaster.

Most families who have dogs like this suck it up and do what they can to keep the dog, even if they are living in fear, sequestering the dog from family members, never taking him out, never having fun with him because of the threat he presents. There become a family so fearful of the dog that they too become anti-social and loose friends and even family from their everyday lives because of the dog. Remember dogs are pets and not kids, we love them but owe it to our family to insure their safety and peace of mind foremost.

If a pet isn’t a pet but a burden, you should not have it. If the pet presents a continuous danger of physical harm, he should not be in your home. The problem is that all of these families love their dog and feel that by correcting (or hiding) the problem they are not being loyal to the dog. That said, understanding that a pet should be a family member and not a threat is the basis of any decision with the disposition of the dog. A pet should be fun and not cause you to live in fear. A pet should not present a problem but rather be a solution to family continuity. If your pet doesn’t fit that profile and you have done everything possible to correct the issues, then a decision has to be made to extract the animal from the family. Extraction may mean re-homing to a family who can channel his aggression, train and refocus him and modify his behavior such that he can be rehabilitated, or put down.

Not all of us are Caesar Milan, and not everyone has the time or skill to effectively rehab a difficult or dangerous dog. Because of that, the hard decision has to be made as to whether or not to put the dog down. This decision is never to be taken lightly but rather thought out, talked out and made with facts and not emotion. If a decision is made to euthanize the dog, that family will know that they did all they could. Every animal cannot be saved, and when it comes to family safety, the only reasonable decision is to either re-home where possible or euthanize where necessary.

German Shepherds are categorized as a dangerous breed by morons who have no ability or understanding of the breed, nor any right to decide on a breed collectively as dangerous. There are no statistics that say your are more apt to be bitten by a GSD than by a Jack Russell. The only dog who ever bit my wife was a Golden! Insurance underwriters are notorious for being morons and using a wide stroke to cast doubt on a breed rather than assess an individual. Actuarial tables are ineffective in making a decision on an individual. That said, people who are uneducated in dog ownership, training or as a pet for that matter, tend to call behaviors incorrectly which also leads to bad decisions and the untimely and senseless demise of a dog. Because the dog mouthed you doesn’t mean he bit you. If the dog bit you, trust me, you would know it yet people report dog bites on family members when the actual event was far different.

No family should have to live in fear and no pet who cannot adapt to a home should remain there. Decisions such as this are gut wrenching and heartbreaking and regardless of the decision, are some of the most difficult decisions we as humans have to make. Breaking our own hearts by putting a pet down is not normal and therefore distasteful. Avoiding the inevitable or putting the decision off time and time again, until someone gets mauled, is unacceptable as well since the people injured and usually family members and friends. The alternative of leaving a dangerous dog in a home is a tragic mistake and those of us who own or have owned a dangerous animal need to understand that such behavior is ingrained and passing the dog to other families puts them needlessly in harms way.

No one wants to cause a tragedy so please use your head and not your heart in deciding what to do with a dangerous dog.