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Here I go opening cans of worms...
Just to be clear, this is totally theoretical mind chatter and I advocate for humane treatment of all animals. I am all for vet assisted euthanasia when an animal is suffering and/or if the owner feels like that is the safe/humane option for an animal.

But my mind's been turning around some bad conversations I've had in recent years. In my line of work, it's not unheard of for people to call for help and threaten to kill their dog in one way or another if we don't help. Horrible, but true.

A while back I had a conversation with an owner who was truly sad and lost. He had a dog that was reactive and aggressive to any strangers, with a multiple bite history (including redirected puncturing bites to the owner). The family was pretty much afraid of this dog and felt out of options. They didn't even want to surrender to the shelter as they realized it would pose a threat to staff, as well as the reality that a dog with this kind of history is not highly adoptable for welfare and liability reasons. Basically, it was 'help us find someone who would be a suitable owner or we're gonna shoot the dog in the woods'. Well, another option could be surrendering the dog to be euthanized by a veterinarian.

The happy part of the story is, with some facilitation, the dog was surrendered to a breed specific rescue and will hopefully find an experienced home.

But that got me thinking... Let's say the family was truly out of options. From a human perspective I think it's medieval and gruesome to shoot a dog. It's gruesome to shoot any animal, though I certainly class dogs differently than I would, say, a deer. However, I couldn't help but think that from a dog's perspective, it would in some ways be more humane to be shot in the woods... Assuming the shot is accurate and swift. I am thinking about the stressful car ride, dragging a reactive dog into a foreign place filled with strangers, hallways, small rooms, and tile floors. Muzzling and restraining a totally panicking dog, holding it still enough to administer the drug that ends it all. And then I am thinking, a dog standing in the quiet woods and then bang - nothing.

Of course, it's not black and white. I know there are plenty of options that are in the grey (like a vet coming to your house, owners administering a sedative before vet comes in, etc.). But the reality for some people is black and white, not grey. And I am SO grateful that for the specific scenario I had in mind, the dog had a chance. But before that option was discovered I offered, among other things, the surrender-for-euth. option. And it didn't sit right in my gut to say it. Of course, I did not agree with shooting the dog in any fashion either.

Anyways, ramblings. Thoughts?
 

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It is an interesting subject, for sure. I know I, personally, wouldn't advocate anyone shooting their dog or do it myself (barring extreme circumstances - the dog is suffering and literally, physically can't get to the vet because of extreme weather or the like), but I don't actually think it's inhumane. That is, IF it's done by someone trained and comfortable with a gun and who knows exactly where and how to shoot an animal to kill it instantaneously. If I'm not mistaken, it's still a method a lot of farmers and homesteaders use to put down large animals (including horses) who are very ill or injured if a vet can't get out to the farm fast enough, and it's generally accepted as the most humane option in those cases. Housepets, of course, are usually a lot more portable - and less likely to be owned by someone with a gun license, or who hunts/has slaughtered livestock - so it makes sense that bringing them to the vet has become the more socially acceptable option, especially in urban/suburban cultures. Those populations just tend to not have the skills or experience to ensure a quick, humane death (on average, anyway).

Don't get me wrong, it definitely gives my suburban-raised self a gut reaction of horror and squeamishness, or at least did when I learned this was still a thing people did. But I don't think that's actually well-founded. In a lot of ways, I'd rather see a dog get that nice walk and shot than dragged through weeks or months (or more) of stressful treatments or palliative care that goes well past the point where it's actually helping the situation and/or keeping the pup comfortable (I'm NOT talking when there's a good chance of recovery, or palliative care that actually controls pain/symptoms enough that the dog is still happy and enjoying life).

On the flip side, I believe that anyone who has ANY doubts whether they have the skills or emotional fortitude to cleanly kill their pet has no business attempting this. Injuring a dog or having it die slowly and painfully is at least as bad as the scary vet office with a panicky sick dog scenario (I would argue worse). And, ofc, local laws need to be taken into consideration.
 

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I will never forget taking our 6 year old shepard mix to the vet to be put down at the age of 12. She was the best dog, always stayed nearby, knew her property line and stuck to it (it was the 90's and I had no clue how to train her but she was just that good) she used to let us kids use her like a pillow. She had total renal failure and was wasting away before our eyes at such a young age. It felt like being in that chapter of Old Yeller regardless of who was pulling the tigger. She knew something wasn't right about that vet trip for sure...Still hurts to think about. Her successor walked himself into the breezeway to lay down one more time at age 12, just a day or two before he was scheduled to go in. I missed coming home to see him one more time but at least he went in peace in a familiar place.

When we had to put cat #2 down (urinary tract surgery complications also very young) I was actually present and he had been at the vets for days, it was still strange because he just wanted to explore the new room we were in, barely cared that we were there and wasn't in any pain at that moment... Still better than having to leave the poor withered dog with a vet tech while she looked longingly back at me though.

So yeah I agree, better to do it at home, get the dog some beef tartar, or a whole pack of bacon and a beer for dinner (though they never want to eat at that point) and wait till he falls asleep.
 

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Growing up in a rural area, it was not uncommon for owners to euthanize their animals (dog, livestock, whatever) by bullet. The reasons were many, from the vet wasn't available to do the job and the animal was suffering deeply (there was one in the whole county when I was younger) to they felt paying someone to euthanize their animals was an unnecessary expense. Sometimes I feel like they feel that euthanizing their animals themselves is some sort of last tribute to their pet or livestock, because it certainly isn't easy to shoot a creature you've cared for for years. You have to have a heart of stone to actually enjoy it and not be saddened by it.

My father had to euthanize multiple animals by gun. Sheep, cows, dogs, cats. He never, ever wanted to do it, and it always disturbed him, but to him, it was something that had to be done. He wasn't going to load up a sheep that had been mauled by coyotes and make it suffer the 30 minute drive to the vet over rough roads, and then wait an hour + for the vet to actually show up, or even all night if he was busy with someone else. He wasn't going to put a claustrophobic cat in a carrier, make is suffer for a 30 minute drive in a vehicle which it was absolutely terrified of, and then force it to be handled by strangers in an unfamiliar location. He had to euthanize a dog when he was younger, before I was born, and he said he probably couldn't do that again. The vet was not available, so he just hoped the next time a dog's time came a vet would be there and the animal wasn't suffering so bad that he had to do it.

I know it's probably very different for some people, but euthanizing an animal yourself with a gun always seemed to be done from a place of great kindness in our area. It wasn't done because they were cruel, or they were too lazy to load up their animal, it was done because an animal was in pain and suffering and there was no other option, or because taking the animal in to a vet was likely to cause even more stress and pain. It's hard to take your pet in to the vet and have them administer the drugs. Imagine having to be the one to administer the bullet. It's not easy. Not at all. And most would gladly have the vet do it if there was more time, if the animal wasn't at all stressed.

In our farm's area now, there are a whopping 3 vets in the whole county! Wow! It's easier to get a vet out faster if an animal has to be euthanized, it's easier to make an appointment to let an animal go, but there are still times when born and bred farm cats who hate strangers and being inside need to be shot. There are still people who believe taking a long, slow walk out back to the trees after a day of hamburgers and love instead of taking them to a stranger is the kindest thing they can do for their friend.
 

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I don't think it's inhumane or unethical, but I'm pretty sure there are places where it is illegal.

It is also way outside my personal comfort zone. I might, might, if I had the skills and ability and weapon manage to do it for someone else's pet or a wild animal or a stray. No way, no how, could I look at the animal I love, sight it and kill it.

Which is part of why I think it's such a controversial thing. It's a very primal "HOW COULD YOU?!?!?!". I recognize how they could - because it's necessary and may even be kinder - but even THINKING about this - one of my dogs looking at me, trusting me, and pulling that trigger - has my stomach in knots.
 

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Conversely, some people would say the same about me. Because I've usually felt bad, and terrible, and sad and grieving when I've taken an animal to the vet to be euthanized - But I've also typically felt overwhelming relief.

So, for me not being the one actively 'pulling the trigger' absolutely, totally, makes a difference. It's a degree of separation I clearly need.
 

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Done correctly I feel it's as humane as by drugs.
Some people with horses feel that euthanizing by gun can be more humane. In general its a VERY instant death, where as there is a question of how instant the death is with drugs. It's quick, but is it as instant?
But as with anything involving death, there will always be instances where it does not go as planned. There will always be missed shots, there will always be dogs that seem to struggle and panic with drugs.
I think a lot of it is what we as humans can stomach. Seeing your animal shot in the head can be harder to stomach than seeing them get a needle. Seeing some blood (though I beleive correctly done there isn't a lot of blood), can be harder to stomach than not seeing any blood. I think seeing both go wrong would be pretty close to as horrible either way, but the addition of blood can make it harder.
Without my knowledge my dad shot my bird to euthanize it. I didn't find out for years after. I was mad at the time I learned of it, even though I'm sure the death was as quick as a death could be, but it does come back to the 'comfort' thing of a little pin prick of a needle compared to a shot. Especially with a small animal like a bird the wound of a gun shot would probably be very large and 'disfiguring' which makes it seem more gruesome and cruel.
 

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My dogs like both riding in the car, and the vet, so for them regular euthanasia shouldn't be an unkindness. But growing up, my stepdad would shoot our dogs when they got to that point of unfixable suffering. He'd take them where none of us kids could see, give them something to eat so they were distracted, then fire. I guess he sort of felt it was his responsibility as an owner to do it himself, and that giving them a painless, immediate ending was the most important thing. IMO he was right, but I don't think I'd have the stomach to do things that way myself.

I have a family member who used to run an equine rescue and they'd pretty regularly get people pulling that maneuver referenced in the OP - "We can't do anything with him, so if you won't take him, I'll shoot him." They caved the first couple times, but eventually had to just be like, "no, but here's a list of other trainers and rescues to try contacting first...and here's the number of a large animal vet who'll come to your place to do humane euthanasia for a small fee." It feels callous, but A, taking in a truly unadoptable animal and managing it indefinitely means taking a space away from multiple other animals that could have been saved, and with the amount of perfectly sound horses going to slaughter, that's a damned shame, and B, if the animal really does need to be put down for everyone's safety, the owner out to balls up and arrange it rather than passing the buck. There's not enough space in rescue (in most places, I'm sure there are exceptions) for all the animals that are already adoptable, or just need a bit of vetting and training to become so, and that's something that I think has to be figured into the moral calculus.
 

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I think for some dogs it is more humane to euthanize than to be bounced around from home to home, etc. I grew up in an area where shooting a dog that couldnt hunt or do the job it was bred for was common. I'm not in favor of that but it was what it was. As for as shooting vs euthanizing......I'm on the fence. I read a blog post by a person, he wasnt advocating one way or the other, but he cited some studies where the brain activity of dogs was measured during euthanasia. Those studies were supposedly showing that the brain activity in those dogs was such that they knew something was happening and the dogs were in a panic, but basically paralysed so it didnt show to visual observers. This guy grew up on a farm, and he then went into how shooting an animal in just the right spot resulted in instant brain death, hence more humane than euth. I read this blog post not long after having my favorite dog euthanized due to cancer- I really struggled with it after reading the post.
 

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I used to be a farmer. I put livestock down. A cow with a broken leg is not going to live and if you are planning to eat the meat, you cannot fill her full of drugs. So you do what you do. I have done likewise with down and sick cattle. By the time you do this, the relief of suffering is simply a kindness.

Horses are best put down this way. Drugs can cause some horses to fight and the "easy death" of euthanasia is anything but easy. Yes.. horses posture after being shot but they are no longer alive and the shot is instantaneous.

If I had a badly injured dog or one that was suffering horribly and getting to the vet was yet another step into suffering, I would absolutely take care of it the same way. However, with dogs and cats that are sick or elderly, you can usually see the end coming. Mine all ride well and have no issues at the vet, so it is not an issue and the vet always gives a pre-shot to relax the animal. If I had an anxiety ridden animal I know my vet would give me something I could give at home to make the dog or cat dopey and not care about the ride in to the vet.

Giving an animal a case of "lead poisoning" as we used to say was never a task taken lightly. If it is, then you should not have animals. Ultimately the object is to make it quick and kind and, depending on the situation, a bullet may do that job better than a vet.
 

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Like others, I'd do it if I REALLY had to, but I'd much rather have a vet do it, even if I had to pay more for a home visit. The last two dogs I've had that have passed have both been taken to the vet to be put down - one died in the car on the way and the other was honestly so ill and out of it I don't know that he even knew where he was.

I don't like people who choose the bullet method because it seems a lot do it to save on expense, and I wonder how many are actually skilled enough to do it on the first shot.

That said, I went to college with a girl whose parents chose to euthanize their dogs at home (NOT by bullet) and THAT does make me angry. They were even advised by a vet on how to do it, but didn't want the actual vet to do it because they weren't willing to pay the expense. They're not even remotely poor and they've done this twice.
 

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I went through a period after euthanizing my favorite where I was eaten up by guilt- it was perverse. I actually felt guilty for paying the vet to euthanize her- on a certain level it felt like I was shirking a responsibility that should have been mine. Like I was letting her down somehow for not doing it myself. Twisted yeah, but thats how I felt.
 
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