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Till Death Do Us Part?

In her recent column, The New York Times Ethicist Ariel Kaminer took on a very challenging question from a veterinarian in Boston, Mass.

I am a veterinarian, and one of my clients is an elderly woman who loves her eight-year-old Pomeranian dearly but has no family or friends who might inherit it. She wants me to sign a legal document stating that I will euthanize it if she dies before the dog does. What should I do?

Mercifully, Kaminer ultimately comes down against the euthanization. But her first forays are cause for concern. The short version of the Ethicist’s reasoning begins as such: if the vet eats meat, she or he should have no more qualms in euthanizing the Pomeranian than she would seeing a cow slaughtered for her hamburger. From a vegetarian or vegan standpoint, complicity in the slaughter of farm animals is equally objectionable to terminating the life of a perfectly healthy pet upon request. But that doesn’t mean the reverse is true. In other words, making what might be considered an immoral choice in one area of my life (eating meat) does not amount to a behavioral free pass to other questionable acts (requesting the euthanization of my healthy companion animal).

This is a standard logical fallacy—It’s even got a fancy Latinate name, ad hominem tu quoque, broken logic that suggests a claim I make can’t be true if it is inconsistent in any way with my previous actions. But here’s the thing—few among us are uniform in our moral and ethical choices. And thankfully, because heaven knows what the implications would be of a bacon chili cheeseburger.

Have you prepared for your dog’s care in the event of your death? What arrangements have you made? What do you think is the responsible choice?

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Elizabeth Kennedy is a freelance writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. elizabethkennedy.org
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Submitted by Frances | January 14 2012 |

I am very fortunate that I can trust my family to make the best possible arrangements for all my animals, whether that means adopting them or rehoming them. If I were less sure, I would make arrangements (including financial) with a reliable organisation to find new homes for them. I love my animals dearly, but I know they would live happily with any other kind human who loved and cared for them. If I had a dog with very special needs, the case might perhaps be different.

Submitted by Allison Nastoff | January 14 2012 |

I have a service dog, so if something were to happen to me and my dog was still young, he would go back to the program that trained him and be re-matched with another person. If something happened to me when he is retired or was close to retirement age, my family has already said they would take him, but if they couldn't or didn't want to take him, all service dog programs I have heard of will take the dog back and find a retirement home for them. If this veterinarian's clint got her dog from a shelter, I think shelters will take back pets and find new homes for them as well. If not, there are so many rescue programs out there that she could make arrangements with that in my mind there is no excuse for euthanasia.

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