More and more pet owners in Portugal are requesting their cats and dogs to be put down for no clinical reason, according to veterinarians who spoke out against the practise prior to World Animal Day, celebrated on Tuesday, 4 October.
“We know that many people should never have had an animal and that, at the slightest difficulty, they want to get rid of it, even through euthanasia, which is revolting,”Maria do Céu Machado, President of the Portuguese League for Animal Rights told Lusa News Agency.
“Requests for euthanasia are ever increasing. It is revolting and especially worrying," she said, adding: “there is nothing that justifies the death of an animal without clinical reasons,” which is what volunteers attempt to explain to pet owners.
Veterinarians across the country also try to explain this when faced with these “incomprehensible requests.”
Ana Marques, a veterinarian and Director of the VetBelas clinic in Belas, told Lusa that since the summer she has received many such requests, which she “vehemently refuses.”
“My role is to save lives, not end them. When people propose such a thing, I try to explain and help, saying that there is a clinical solution for the animal, or if the owner doesn't want it, that it can be given up for adoption,” she said.
“The strangest cases arise. People want a guarantee over the phone that I will euthanize an animal, even without having seen it. When I refuse, they don't hesitate in saying that they will have it done elsewhere,” she added.
Ana Marques considers the crisis does not justify this act, which is unethical for these professionals, because there are “many pet owners who barely have any money to eat but nevertheless provide treatment for their animal, even if they have to go without a meal or medication themselves.”
The veterinarian knows the type of owners who “want to get rid of their animal at any cost”: “They betray what they feel and what they are, as well as the fact that they bring in an animal that already shows signs of negligence.”
Gonçalo da Graça Pereira, a veterinarian with a masters in clinical ethics and animal wellbeing, told Lusa that he has not received many requests for euthanasia, but sees the impact of the continuing financial crisis on pet owner’s wallets.
“I work for an animal association, which because it has cheaper prices, is more and more sought after. These are owners who really want to help their pets,” he said.
Mr. Pereira has refused euthanasia requests because he considers it an animal's last resort.
Laurentina Pedrosa, a spokeswoman from the Order of Veterinarians in Portugal did not reveal whether they have noticed an increase in euthanasia requests, saying: “we know that euthanasia is carried out in situations where there is no other clinical solution for an animal's health.”
She added however that the method should only be used as a last resort and highlighted that a veterinarian's role is not merely clinical but also to provide a solution for animals whose owners cannot ensure its wellbeing.