You often hear the phrase, treated like dogs, with some implication that the treatment is cruel. In many instances, companion animals and wild animals are not treated with the same dignity and respect as humans – however, in one main area they receive treatment that is far more compassionate than that received by humans.
The reason this came to mind for me begins about half a year ago. We were given a cat named Harry who used to live on the streets in Henderson and had since been rescued and needed a home. We welcomed him in, and loved his quirky character and energy. About two months after he moved in, we found out he had severe, chronic kidney disease.
After moving on from this very sad news we brought him home with a bag of IV fluids, an IV and some needles and began three months of (nearly) twice daily sub-cutaneous fluids. This served him very well and he lived an almost typical cat-life of sitting in the sun, stalking birds and climbing trees.
Unfortunately, three months later within the space of a few days his condition plummeted. He became gaunt, lost his appetite, wouldn’t keep food down and seemed away with the cat-fairies. The day we took him for his last visit to the vet he had trouble standing and appeared to be hallucinating some of the time.
The vet put him down and we watched as Harry fell asleep.
The vet said it was the right time for him to go and everyone I have ever spoken with about pets has agreed that to prolong his life would have been to afflict unnecessary suffering.
An interesting dilemma arises when you consider New Zealand’s stance on euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is presently illegal. The main reasoning behind this, in my opinion, must be due to the commonly held view about the sanctity of human life. Some of these ideas are covered in detail in Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. But, the inherent paradox is that this suggests the lives of animals are not as important as those of humans, and yet simultaneously that humans should suffer where animals should not.
My view is that everyone has the right to a dignified death. Even though I was incredibly unhappy about Harry’s life being due to end, I was desperate to hasten the trip to the vet to have him put to sleep because of the horrible turn his life had taken. I do not think I would be any more equipped for seeing that happen to a loved one.