When dogs get untreatable diseases or injuries, euthanasia gives them a quick and painless death to end their suffering. This is a legal and generally acceptable option in most places. In this article, you’ll learn if it’s legal to euthanize a healthy dog and its repercussions.
Is It Legal to Euthanize a Healthy Dog?
It’s legal to euthanize a healthy dog in some states, although most veterinarians will refuse due their moral obligation to save animals and their clinic policies. California state laws deem euthanizing a healthy pet illegal, with some exceptions. Euthanizing healthy dogs is also called owner-requested or convenience euthanasia.
If euthanasia is the last option to save your dog from pain, most veterinarians will conduct the procedure. In most euthanasia cases, the dog will have a terminal diagnosis or poor quality of life. We know that putting your dog down isn’t an easy decision, so it’s important that you consider every factor leading to this option.
Is It Legal to Euthanize Healthy Pets in California?
Each U.S. state has laws regarding euthanasia to let veterinarians and animal control officers euthanize animals when necessary. However, this only applies to animals suffering from injuries or illnesses. Likewise, it also applies to animals that pose a threat to people or other animals due to aggressive behavior.
These laws protect veterinary clinics from legal action, as well as help veterinarians with the moral and ethical decision of euthanasia. Additionally, the laws protect pets from unnecessary end-of-life procedures, especially those with up-to-date vaccinations and good living conditions.
For example, it’s not legal to euthanize pets in California if they can still be moved to a suitable home or they can still be treated. Animals that would be considered for moving to a suitable home instead of euthanizing include:
- Adoptable animals apply to pets eight weeks old or older at the time of impounding.
- Adoptable animals that have no signs of temperamental or behavioral defects that may pose health or safety threats.
- Adoptable animals that have no manifestations or signs of diseases, injuries, or hereditary conditions that can be detrimental to the animal’s health in the future.
- Treatable animals are those that could be adopted through reasonable efforts.
What Are the Legal Reasons to Put Down a Healthy Dog?
There are valid reasons to euthanize a dog with a good health condition. However, these reasons may only apply to some states, so it’s best to consult your veterinarian first.
Generally, a veterinarian will refuse to euthanize a healthy dog unless the animal is beyond behavioral rehabilitation.
A Dog is Beyond Behavioral Rehabilitation
A survey from the British Veterinary Association shows that 98% of veterinarians were asked to put down healthy pets with poor behavior or socialization skills. It can be that the dog attacked or killed another animal, as well as hurt a person.
At Paws into Grace, we encourage behavioral training and rehoming before considering a behavioral euthanasia. In cases where these methods have failed and the dog is presenting neurological issues that may be contributing to aggression, our veterinarians may support euthanasia when people, especially children, or other animals are deemed to be in danger from the aggressive dog.
In most cases, it’s legal to euthanize dogs who pose a danger to their surroundings, even if they are healthy. Most veterinarians view this as a last option.
The Owner Is Moving to a New Place
In the same survey from the British Veterinary Association, about 39% of respondents say that moving to a new accommodation unsuitable for pets is another reason for them to consider euthanasia. This also applies to older people moving to assisted living.
This is different for those who want convenience euthanasia only because owners eventually realize that having pets interferes with their living situation or lifestyle.
Most veterinarians will not perform convenience euthanasia and do not consider moving to be a reason to end a life.
A Dog Is Too Old
Old age is another common reason for owners to consider euthanasia despite their pets being healthy. Some senior dogs reach old age without any signs of sickness.
If your pet still has a good quality of life, old age is not a reason for a vet to euthanize an animal. Most veterinarians will only euthanize an animal if their quality of life is poor. Old age symptoms such as deafness or blindness generally do not affect quality of life, and most vets will not euthanize an animal because it is deaf or blind. Once your pet does have a poor quality og life, you’ll also have to help your kids get through pet loss, even if the pet’s health is failing due to its old age.
A Dog Is Abandoned or Unwanted
Several dogs get abandoned on the streets or at shelters for these reasons. This happens when:
- There’s no other way to rehome the dog safely.
- The owner doesn’t want the dog anymore.
- The owner hoards animals.
- There are too many abandoned animals in the local shelter.
- Animal control officers pick up strays on the streets.
When shelters are too full, and there aren’t enough adoptive homes, about 2.7 million dogs and cats get euthanized annually despite being healthy. Most veterinarians will help owners with resources to rehome their unwanted pets, and will not euthanize a pet because it was unwanted. Owning a pet a a lifelong commitment to them, and the veterinarian’s medical oath requires them to use their skills to benefit and not harm animals.
How Do I Ask Vets to Euthanize My Healthy Pet?
When you want to euthanize your healthy pet, you must first schedule an appointment with a veterinarian to consult the situation. They can help you determine your options, especially if euthanasia is your last resort.
Suppose your healthy dog’s aggressiveness threatens your family or other animals. Your veterinarian may be willing to do the procedure if local laws or clinic policies allow it.
At Paws into Grace, we do not euthanize healthy pets except in extreme circumstances of professionally-documented behavioral aggression with failed rehabilitation.
Can a Vet Refuse to Put Down a Healthy Dog?
Yes, vets can and do refuse to put down healthy dogs. After all, their oath is “to use [their] scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.”
During a consultation, a veterinarian will determine is there is something wrong with your dog’s health.
Most vets have no qualms about pursuing euthanasia if they believe it’s the right thing to do to end a pet’s suffering.
An example of circumstances that might make a family pursue euthanasia for their healthy pet would be wherein the pet owner needs to take care of an elderly family member, or someone from their household who can’t live with pets due to health issues. Even in these cases, most veterinarians may recommend other options, such as rehoming, instead of euthanasia.
Can I Put My Healthy Dog Down Myself?
Nearly every state law forbids individuals from euthanizing healthy dogs by themselves. You must reach out to trained and certified veterinarians to conduct euthanasia because they know how to humanely euthanize a pet, which includes placing a catheter and using DEA-regulated medications.
Where Should a Vet Put Down a Healthy Dog?
If a veterinarian has agreed to euthanize a healthy dog, the procedure will usually take place in their vet clinic. If your veterinarian agrees and you prefer a more dignified and serene environment, you can prepare your house for in-home pet euthanasia.
When Can a Healthy Dog Be Euthanized?
It’s not ideal to euthanize a healthy dog unless they pose a threat or show signs of illness that can affect its long-term health or the dog is aggressive and all other options such as behavioral training have been explored. As a responsible pet owner, you must assess your pet’s quality of life first. It may be time to consider euthanasia for your dog if its quality of life dramatically decreases.
While it’s legal to euthanize healthy dogs in most states, veterinarians can and will usually decline this request except in extenuating circumstances of professionally-documented, unsuccessful behavioral rehabilitation. If your pet is perfectly healthy, consider other options, such as rehoming first. If your dog is suffering from an incurable illness or injury, that’s when in-home pet euthanasia is the most compassionate thing to do.