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When is Euthanasia necessary?
By Erik Hoffer
Unfortunately some dogs have to be humanely put down. This is done for a variety of reasons, and is never done without serious consideration of the well being of the animal and its owners. Yes, I said it’s owners.
Here are the basic reasons for a decision to end a dogs life.
1. Severe illness with no path to recovery
2. Age based decisions because the animal is in extreme discomfort or unable to move around without help or has a quality of life that calls for a humane decision be made by the owners to allow their friend to pass with respect.
3. Behavioral issues that put the animal, the family, the public and other dogs or pets in danger needlessly.
Surely there are times when finances are just unavailable to address a dog’s medical condition and a decision is made by the owner to terminate the dogs life. These life decisions are unfortunately a reality of the times and can’t be avoided. No one is judging this decision, as most loving dog owners will do what they can for the pet to the limits of their ability. Once those limits are met, hard decisions have to be made in accordance with the values and ability of the owners in the best interests of the animal and family.
Of concern is when an animal is otherwise healthy, but is a danger to himself and others, and then is euthanized, is the subject of this article.
I have gotten hundreds of calls from families wishing to rehome their dog. The first questions I ask are, “why”, how old is the dog, how long have you had him, is he healthy and has he ever bitten anyone? The caller typically tells me that the dog is just out of control, unmanageable, intimidating, aggressive, mean spirited, untrained, unsocialized and moreover dangerous. Some of these families live in fear of their own dog. Some change their life style to accommodate the dogs short comings or traits. Some people can’t have a normal life because the dog’s behavior doesn’t permit people in the home, kids to play unsupervised, limits their ability to eat or sleep in peace or is dangerous. Some dogs rule the home because they are allowed to. Some dogs just have a screw loose and have become aggressive because of their DNA or through lack of training and even through some medically associated defect. The reasons for bazaar behavior are at times easy to determined when they relate to a lack of training, but for the most part some aggressive behaviors are quite difficult to pinpoint.
Biting is a serious condition. It is usually a consequence of a dog’s frustration of not being understood when he gave sufficient warning (but these warnings were not understood or ignored) and the dogs lashes out as a defense or as an assertion of authority. A dog who is alpha in the home, and who is predisposed to controlling those around him is basically a loaded gun with a hair trigger walking amongst your family and friends unabated and unmonitored. A German Shepherd, or any dog, big or small, can seriously injure any human. From ankle biters to 90 pounders a dog bite is a painful and possibly life threatening event. When a family member is bitten the pain stretches from the person bitten throughout the family. When a child is bitten it can be far more devastating both physically and emotionally. It will scar a child for life, it can disfigure him and based on the bite and the age of the child, can kill.
Dogs who bite those entering the home can not only inflict pain on them but the ramifications of the bite legally can seriously and adversely affect you, your family, your wealth and possibly your freedom, if charges are files against you for the incident.
When a dog is a biter your choices for that animal are limited to retraining through some higher level of behavioral modification or euthanasia. They are NOT REHOMING THE DOG THROUGH RESCUE as that simply passes a known problem on to a possibly unsuspecting family which exacerbates the problem and surely causes unnecessary further harm. Not every dog can be fixed. Not every dog belongs in a home once they have proven dangerous or unpredictable. Not every dog is stable, but through training, can possibly be rehabilitated, if the dogs actions are obvious and somewhat predictable. It is when a dogs violent reactions are triggered by something, (known or not) or unpredictable, that rehabilitation rarely works.
Passing a problem dog on to others who may be unprepared or unqualified to live with such an animal is unfair to all concerned. No one can save every dog and no dog should be allowed to hurt or intimidate its owners or humans in general. Some dogs are just not candidates to be housed with other dogs and become aggressive in a multiple dog home. That aggression and frustration can manifest itself with family members but can be addressed by extracting that dog into a single dog home and with sufficient training. Those alpha dogs are not necessarily unsaveable, but need to be in an environment that better serves their nature. Dogs that are uncontrollable in any home are dogs that simply can’t be considered pets and should be put down.
It is harsh to say but no family should live in fear from their animal and no animal should be permitted to cause a family physical or emotional harm through its behavior.