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Almost all companion animal vets asked to euthanise healthy pets

98 percent of vets have been asked to euthanise a healthy pet, say figures released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

The information came from the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey. The poll of 700 vets across the UK highlighted the difficulties faced by vets every day.

53 percent of the vets surveyed said requests to euthanise a healthy pet were not a rare occurrence. 98 percent of those who had been asked to euthanise a healthy pet cited the owner’s reason as their pet’s behaviour.

Owners often offered a number of reasons when requesting euthanasia for their healthy pet. Surveyed vets saying that some of the other common reasons they were given included:

  • Poor health of the owner, 48 percent
  • Owners were moving to accommodation that would be unsuitable for their pet, 39 percent
  • Legal enforcement reasons, 32 percent

BVA says that these figures overwhelmingly show the importance of adequate socialisation of animals at an early age. Many veterinary practices now offer puppy socialisation classes. The organisation recommends that young animals should safely encounter a variety of people, animals and everyday household sights and sounds in their first few weeks and months of age. This begins at the place where they are born.

BVA president Sean Wensley said: “These figures are stark and are likely to come as a shock to members of the public. But this is the sad reality of a failure to socialise animals from the earliest possible age – a specific time in a puppy’s development which has a significant impact on their future temperament and behaviour. With dogs, this process starts from before a puppy is even seen by a potential owner.

“In recent months there has been a litany of news stories about the illegal importation, breeding and trading of puppies through puppy farms. This is no way for a family pet to start life and we urge potential owners to thoroughly research where a puppy has been born and reared, using the AWF/RSPCA Puppy contract to help.

“Then, in the first year of ownership, and especially in the first few weeks, work with your local veterinary practice to ensure your puppy is introduced to everyday sights and sounds, including other people and animals, in a safe and structured way.”

Impact on vets

Mr Wensley commented: “Nobody enters the veterinary profession wanting to euthanise healthy pets, but this is the stressful situation that many vets are facing because of undesirable behaviours in pet animals.

“Vets will do all they can in these situations to avoid euthanasia, including offering evidence-based behavioural advice, referring to accredited pet behaviourists or assisting with rehoming through reputable rehoming organisations, but sometimes these options are not appropriate, particularly where the behavioural issues make it extremely difficult to rehome the animal.

“Vets are not required to euthanise healthy animals at an owner’s request, but sometimes, having carefully considered all options and given the circumstances the pet finds themselves in, it may be in an animal’s best interests to do so. Euthanising an animal who could have been a loving pet is the hidden, tragic cost of poor socialisation.”


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