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The legal and moral issues of euthanizing a healthy pet

Finding a willing veterinarian can be challenging
Posted at 9:50 PM, May 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 01:30:03-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — A Virginia woman's dying wish to have her healthy dog euthanized, so it could be buried with her when she died, is stirring up controversy.

Euthanizing a pet is an emotional and often difficult decision.

Dr. Ed Kiesel has been a veterinarian for almost 40 years. He has simple rules for euthanasia -- a deadly diagnosis, and the animal has to be in uncontrollable pain or suffering.

"I have to know what's the matter with the animal," Kiesel said. "I'm not just going to put it to sleep just because someone doesn't want it."

Kiesel says he follows the American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for doing what's morally and ethically correct before putting an animal to sleep.

But it's not always black and white.

The guidelines encourage "careful consideration of the decision to euthanize and the methods use." But also mention, "euthanasia may be warranted even if the animal is not showing signs of suffering."

Kiesel says he's been asked once before to put a healthy pet down.

"I had a client once in Tombstone, who wanted to be buried with her animal," Kiesel said. "And her car. She wanted to get in her car."

He said he wouldn't do it. Not then, not ever.

Euthanizing a healthy animal may not be a legal issue in Arizona, but finding a willing veterinarian could be challenging.

"Each veterinarian has to answer for himself," Kiesel said. "Has to be his conscience."