No Kill, euthanasia, and fates worse than death

Neglected Cocker Spaniel

Fates worse than death: not a pleasant topic, least of all on a sunny Friday morning. But the comments posted in response to that portion of this week’s No Kill installment were some of the most thought-provoking the series has elicited.

A few of the posts that gave me pause, baffled me, surprised me, and most importantly, made me think:

Anonymous says: “You cannot condone a very permanent wrong (the killing of healthy animals) for fear of a maybe wrong that you could very likely have a chance to right down the road. These are living, sentient, feeling beings… killing them is wrong — period. There are no legitimate excuses.”

I understand where Anonymous is coming from. No doubt, taking an animal’s life deprives him of the chance to go to a happy, loving home (of which there are many in this country). But what I’m asking: Is it ok to remove the chance that an animal winds up in a neglectful or even violent home (of which there are also many in this country) by taking that animal’s life? What do you do when all options seem repugnant?

I’m an ethical vegan; I believe that killing is wrong. But I believe suffering can be worse. Perhaps my definition of suffering is too generous, my definition of neglectful is too sweeping. But as Anonymous points out, these are sentient, feeling beings; at what point does a less-than-desirable quality of life fall below the acceptability line? I get that there is no right answer, but for me, I would rather experience a lethal injection than know that mind-numbing boredom and terrible loneliness will take my life, albeit much more slowly.

Clearly Dayna, another poster, would not agree with me, saying: “I don’t believe a dog should be put down because of what ‘could’ happen. Miracles, too, happen. And I prefer to believe in them… I don’t think we can say, ‘It’s better for a dog to die than live like this.’ We don’t even know what death is. Not really.”

To Dayna I can only say that I’m jealous of your optimism. I’ve not witnessed many miracles in my shelter experience. I’ve seen a few astounding recoveries, a handful of examples of extreme care and devotion. But the reason those stories stand out is because they’re the exception, not the rule. As I said in the article, cruelty is unbelievably prevalent; neglect even more common.

Please don’t misinterpret my stance: Killing is NOT the humane, appropriate, moral way to deal with the staggering numbers of unwanted animals. Education about what a dog needs to be happy and refusal to tolerate anything less (along with massive, ongoing spay/neuter programs) is the way to go. In the meantime, what do we do? Push for adoption and cross our fingers? I don’t have the answer, I just hate the suffering.

In other news: Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the polarizing figure behind the idea of assisted suicide for the suffering and terminally ill, is dead today at age 83.