Denver CO

You keep using that word – Euthanasia – I do not think it means what you think it means.

One of my favorite scenes from Princess Bride is when Vizzinni continually uses a word that just doesn’t work out for him.  Inigo Montoya, the supporting character but clear star of the film says, “You keep using that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means.”  And I feel the lexicon of the animal welfare and animal advocacy organizations might want to think about the word euthanasia.  They use it a lot, and  I don’t think it means what they think it means.

I was looking around the AVMA (American Veterinarian Medical Association) site and came upon this:

  • Euthanasia of Animals That Are Unwanted or Unfit for Adoption
  • (Approved by the AVMA Executive Board April 2000; Revised by the AVMA Executive Board November 2007; Reaffirmed by the AVMA Executive Board June 2012)
  • The AVMA is not opposed to the euthanasia of unwanted animals or those unfit for adoption, when conducted by qualified personnel, using appropriate humane methods as described in the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia.

You read that correctly, “not opposed to the euthanasia of unwanted animals or those unfit for adoption”.

If you have read this blog before you know that both of these reasons are unacceptable to our No Kill philosophy.

  1. Unfit for Adoption.  This doesn’t really mean anything and leaves a wide interpretation of what it could mean.  If they were talking about deathly ill or irredeemably hostile animals, I would not disagree (so long as that was clearly defined).  But unadoptable?  Like ugly? Old?  Young?  What decides unfit for adoption except the individual looking to adopt?  I know blind dogs and cats were adopted.  Animals with missing limbs.  Animals with treatable cancer.  I even know about a dog with terminal cancer that was adopted so it could be euthanized (the correct use of the word) surrounded by caring people who adopted knowing they had precious weeks or at most months with the dog before the humane thing to do was to euthanize.
  2. Unwanted animals.  Really?  You can use the word euthanize for an unwanted animal?  Can you use that for children?  Seniors that have become a bit of a burden?  Teens (because, well ya know how they can be.)?

Then I thought of the Hippocratic Oath that our doctors take and thought maybe veterinarians did the same.  Turns out they have one too.  Called the Oath.

  •  Veterinarian’s Oath
  • (Approved by the HOD, 1954; Revision approved by the HOD, 1969; Revision approved by the Executive Board 1999, 2010)
  • Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my 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.
  • I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
  • I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.


Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t see a thing about using scientific knowledge and skills to kill animals for the convenience of getting them out of our way.  And it doesn’t seem to fit inside the “benefit of society”, the “”protections of animal health and welfare”, the “conservation of animal resource” or any of the other things they are supposed to with all that education stuff that went through years to achieve.

I think every time a vet kills an animal with the blue solution, a gas chamber, or any other way that it is legal to kill shelter pets they might just be breaking the oath that is the foundation of their life choice.  If you are a veterinarian, how about every time you about to kill an animal (or if you believe you are euthanizing one), you give your oath a read and then decide if it fits in your oath.

Bark Away!