What is Behavioral Euthanasia?
by Danielle Cookish
The definition of animal welfare transcends the boundaries of the basic necessities of food, shelter, and love. It is the humane care of the whole animal, from the most basic needs for survival to complex physical and mental wellness. Giving an animal a loving home is easy, rewarding, and brings about a sense of warmth and satisfaction.
Sometimes, that loving home can begin to feel like a prison and people are too afraid of judgment and ridicule to reach out for help.
Animal Resource Counselors at Dakin face the reality every day that some families are living in fear with dangerous and aggressive animals because they believe they have no other option. They express that they feel isolated, trapped, and are weighed down by guilt. “I’m not doing enough. I have to do more and spend more. I am a failure as a pet owner.”
When an animal is suffering from a serious and incurable medical condition or injury, humane euthanasia is a sad conversation but met with understanding and compassion. We all want to do what’s best for an animal in pain. For some, behavioral euthanasia is a taboo topic, but only because it’s not talked about enough.
There has always been this societal idea that every problem has a fix. There is a home for every animal in need. Every dangerous behavior can be trained. Every animal’s fear can be soothed with love and persistence. Allowing animals with severe behavior problems to endure being passed from home to home, stranger to stranger multiple times while living with crippling anxiety and fear isn’t a humane choice. The answer to an animal’s severe behavior problems isn’t always a new home.
Behavior isn’t the same as a broken leg. Like humans, there are astounding complexities to the mental health of animals and there is no universal approach to every problem. Behavior specialists can provide tools and teach people how to communicate with their pets but they cannot change the innate personality of any animal. A split-second unexpected event can cause all that training and constant vigilance to fail. What could happen in the moments after that training fails is where we need to reflect honestly about the severity of this behavior problem and our responsibility to keep our pet and others safe.
The conversation around behavioral euthanasia will never be black and white, nor is it a decision ever made out of convenience. It’s often seen in online support groups that people who had been adamantly opposed to the concept only understood once they had found themselves living with a dangerous animal.
Through our loving bonds with our pets, humans share an unspoken commitment to doing what’s best for all animals. When someone is struggling with a dangerous pet, offer them kindness and understanding. Humans deserve the same level of compassion and support as the animals they love and care for.