We don’t let our dogs suffer, why should we do so with our sick?

In the debate on Bill 52 we often hear the argument that we don't let our pets suffer and so we shouldn't let our close ones suffer. This emotional argument is not too valid. There are many reasons why we euthanise our domestic animals and often they have nothing to do with suffering.

To be perfectly clear, the majority of dogs and cats that are euthanised do not suffer. They are simply killed because they have become deadweight to their owner.

Ministère de l'Agriculture, Pêcheries et Alimentation du Québec report (PDF) indicates that in 2008, almost 24 000 dogs and cats were euthanised within organizations for the well-being of animals. The report specifies that this number underestimates the actual situation. During the same period, only 16 000 animals were adopted. We kill more domestic animals than we adopt.

The Humane Society International proposes a checklist (PDF) including the main reasons why our domestic animals are euthanised. The main categories include age, behaviour, race, health and space. Lack of ressources (money, time and space) are often cited as reasons. What's more, it's really interesting when you consider the results of a research undertaken by professor Emeritus Dick Sobsey, from the University of Alberta's Health Ethics Centre. Sobsey went over the folders of euthanised animals to identify the pattern having brought forth their euthanisation. Here are his results:

  • Animals with behavioural or personality problems. Sobsey specifies that according to the SPCA this is the primary reason behind the euthanisation of dogs- 60% of cases.
  • The people who were taking care of the pet, no longer wish to do so.
  • The animals were not attractive - they were missing a leg, an eye or they had other disabilities.
  • The animals had a treatable disease but euthanasia cost less.
  • The animals were becoming old.
  • The animals had a terminal illness and they were suffering.
  • In many cases there was no simple underlying reason.

Yes, suffering was on the list, but represented a very weak percentage of the total of cases.

I hesitate to compare humans to animals. But if you'll allow me, we have to be honest and admit that we euthanise our animals because they are old, they cost too much and they cause trouble. And grandma, what will happen to her when she becomes very old and costs too much?