Eu­thana­sia is harsh, but is also an end to suf­fer­ing

Bray People - - LIFE STYLE - Pete Wed­der­burn

THE KIT­TEN had been found at the lo­cal re­cy­cling cen­tre, try­ing to hide in the card­board and wrap­ping pa­per. She must have been left out in the rain, and she was soaked to the skin. She was fright­ened of peo­ple, and tried to dart away when ap­proached, but she was no more than six weeks of age, so it wasn't dif­fi­cult to catch her.

The kind man who found her didn't know what to do: he had never been so close to a kit­ten be­fore, but he re­alised that she needed help. He brought her down to our vet clinic be­cause he knew that at least we would know what ought to be done to help her.

A quick ex­am­i­na­tion of the kit­ten con­firmed that she was un­der­fed and un­der­weight, cold, wet and shiv­er­ing. But she wasn't a sick kit­ten, and there was a good chance that she would make a full re­cov­ery from her plight.

A few days later, an­other cri­sis ar­rived on our doorstep. A woman ar­rived at our re­cep­tion in dis­tress: she had just driven into a badger, and she thought that it was badly in­jured. She had man­aged to lift it into the boot of her car, but she didn't know what to do next.

I went out to the car park with a large towel to in­ves­ti­gate the sit­u­a­tion. Badgers are large an­i­mals, like small Labradors, and when they are in full health, they can be in­tim­i­dat­ing ad­ver­saries. When I lifted the boot lid of the car, this badger lay there pas­sively. He seemed to be con­cussed, and didn't ob­ject as we lifted him onto the towel and car­ried him in­doors.

I then car­ried out a de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion, and it wasn't good news. He had no use of his back legs at all, and I could feel a “step de­fect” in his spine, which told me that he had suf­fered a se­ri­ous spinal frac­ture in the ac­ci­dent.

He would never re­cover, and the only kind an­swer was prompt eu­thana­sia, so that at least his suf­fer­ing was soon over.

Stray and wild an­i­mals like th­ese ex­am­ples are a chal­lenge for vets. By def­i­ni­tion, they have no own­ers, which means that they have no­body to pay their vet bills. It would be easy as a vet to take in ev­ery own­er­less crea­ture that turned up in your lo­cal town, but if you did this, you'd soon end up go­ing out of busi­ness, which would not help the lo­cal an­i­mal sit­u­a­tion at all.

Vets have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that their busi­nesses pro­vides an on­go­ing, suc­cess­ful ser­vice to the an­i­mals in the area, as well as em­ploy­ment for their staff. This means that some­times tough de­ci­sions need to be made: it just isn't pos­si­ble to give ex­pen­sive treat­ment to ev­ery an­i­mal that has no means of paying its way.

To the per­son find­ing the an­i­mal, it's a one-off unique sit­u­a­tion, but it's com­mon for vets to be faced with this: an own­er­less an­i­mal may turn up once a week or more, so the sheer vol­ume is a chal­lenge.

It's eas­ier in some other coun­tries. In the UK, the RSPCA is a wealthy and gen­er­ous char­ity. As well as pro­vid­ing a na­tion­wide net­work of uni­formed of­fi­cers to in­ves­ti­gate is­sues of an­i­mal wel­fare on the ground, the char­ity con­trib­utes to the costs of strays and wild an­i­mals that are brought in to vets by mem­bers of the pub­lic.

Here in Ire­land, this level of fund­ing is not avail­able, so it's al­ways a case of each sit­u­a­tion need­ing to be dealt with on an ad hoc ba­sis. Vets will of­fer an opin­ion on what needs to be done, then it's up to ev­ery­one in­volved to work out a way of achiev­ing it. Sadly, giv­ing full treat­ment and in­ten­sive nurs­ing care is ex­pen­sive, and it can't al­ways be done.

Eu­thana­sia can seem harsh, but it is an ef­fec­tive way of end­ing suf­fer­ing, and some­times it's the only real­is­tic fi­nan­cial op­tion.

Who should pay for th­ese an­i­mals, any­way? Stray pets, like the kit­ten, orig­i­nate from domestic pets who do have own­ers, and th­ese are the peo­ple who ought to be re­spon­si­ble, but there's no hope of that.

As for wild an­i­mals: they are in­de­pen­dent crea­tures, so per­haps it is up to “so­ci­ety” to deal with them in a hu­mane way. But who is “so­ci­ety”. Does this mean government, or does it mean you and me, the gen­eral pub­lic and vets?

The government won't pay, es­pe­cially in this cur­rent fi­nan­cial cli­mate. The only ex­cep­tion to this sit­u­a­tion is when Gar­dai, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties or other state bod­ies are in­volved (e.g. if an in­jured an­i­mal is caus­ing a haz­ard on a road or a rail­way line). If vets are asked to help by one of th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions, they would ex­pect to be paid, but this is the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule.

In most cases, it does come down to “you and me”, the pub­lic and the vet. And per­haps sur­pris­ingly, we can of­ten do a rea­son­able job to­gether. Vets are of­ten pre­pared to do the nec­es­sary work at some sort of dis­count, and the peo­ple in­volved with find­ing an own­er­less an­i­mal will of­ten make a con­tri­bu­tion to­wards reach­ing a sat­is­fac­tory out­come.

The bedrag­gled “re­cy­cled kit­ten” in the photo is a good ex­am­ple of how small ef­forts can pro­duce a heart warm­ing out­come: af­ter a few days of sim­ple care, with costs kept down, she made a full re­cov­ery and ended up go­ing to a good home.

This bedrag­gled kit­ten is a good ex­am­ple of how small ef­forts can pro­duce a heart warm­ing out­come.

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