The proposal by animal welfare groups to impose a checklist on vets asked to euthanise pets is an onerous one fraught with operational issues and places an unfair burden on vets ("Animal groups propose rules for euthanising pets"; Tuesday).
Not every dog with behavioural problems should be put down. The majority of problems are not genetic in nature, but conditioning, as a result of poor training, excessive punishment or plain neglect.
Medical conditions are scientifically easier to define, and society generally accepts euthanasia as a means to stop the unnecessary suffering of an animal if there is little chance of a cure.
Behavioural issues in an animal are more complex to define, compared with a medical problem, as these are usually contingent on its environment, especially the people taking care of it.
Do we really expect a dog, especially an insecure and abused one, to behave normally in front of a vet?
My opinion is based on a personal experience. My dog and I once came across a dog that had been rescued from the streets.
In the initial few days after we got acquainted, it showed aggressiveness - barking and snarling at us - but through daily interaction and reassurance, a strong bond eventually developed. Nowadays, it wags its tail whenever it sees us.
The life-and-death matters of a dog with behavioural problems cannot be determined in a clinical and time-pressured setting.
With the help of animal welfare activists, we should be able to shortlist a number of qualified dog trainers who are more suited to examine and decide, in an appropriate setting, whether the animal is beyond behavioural therapy and should be put to sleep.
It should be made compulsory for dog owners to go to an approved, certified dog trainer for advice before they decide to go to a vet to euthanise their pets.
The vet can act as the final safeguard on whether to proceed with euthanasia, but the ultimate burden of responsibility has to be shouldered by the owners themselves.
Edmund Lam (Dr)
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