Protect Animals, Help People: Talk to Your Veterinarian
It's starting to happen: A small but growing number of veterinary practices are putting the wellbeing of animals first and foremost. They're offering free spay/neuter clinics and providing low-cost care to the animals of guardians and rescuers in need. Some are refusing to declaw, devocalize, crop ears or dock tails.
The most courageous are also taking a principled stand--often against the position of colleagues--by endorsing humane laws that prohibit unnecessary veterinary procedures such as devocalization.
Talk to your vet about joining the ranks of these enlightened practices. You're the client. You pay the bills. You have the right to expect the person treating your best friends to share your humane values. And you have the right to find another if he or she doesn't.
TELL YOUR VET TO "DO NO HARM" "Do no harm" is the core of the Hippocratic Oath, which guides the actions of medical doctors. Though there's no equivalent for animals, there ought to be: Like humans, they feel pain and fear. They face surgical risks and potential complications that can cause suffering or death no matter how skilled the veterinarian.
When the surgeries are those animals do not need--performed to mask their behavior, like devocalization or declawing, or alter their appearance for so-called breed aesthetics--that is patently cruel. Urge your vet to stop performing these procedures.
Many veterinarians say the decision to devocalize or declaw, crop or dock is between the vet and the client. Really? What about patients, who suffer the consequences of surgeries they didn't ask for, don't need and are helpless to refuse? If vets don't protect them by declining to perform these painful, risky elective procedures, who will?
No one protected the little Pomeranian who died in terror, choking on food after being devocalized by his veterinarian ... or the Newfoundland who inhaled vomit into her lungs, a result of devocalization performed by an experienced vet, among the go-to practitioners for this surgery.
Other vets say they don’t like to declaw and devocalize but do it anyway, claiming it will keep animals in “good” homes. Some even believe that. But rescuers know it's not true: Declawed and devocalized animals are relinquished, abandoned and convenience-euthanized for the same reasons as any other.
In fact, declawing may increase the risk of abandonment or euthanasia due to behavioral problems that occur after the cat's toes are amputated to the last knuckle or tendons are severed. That's what declawing really is.
And what do you think happens to devocalized animals whose guardians can't or won't pay for costly procedures to treat complications, which are common and may be fatal? How about devocalized breeding, sport or show animals who are no longer profitable? What do you imagine their fate is?
TELL YOUR VET TO ENDORSE LAWS PROHIBITING BEHAVIOR-MASKING SURGERIES Veterinarians, who know the serious risks and potential complications of surgery, have a special obligation to protect animals from being subjected to those performed just to mask behavior or alter appearance. If your vet isn't aware that these procedures don't ensure animals a lifelong home, educate him or her.
TELL YOUR VET TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION FOR PETS AND PEOPLE IN NEED Pet surrender isn't always the result of a noncommital or uncaring guardian; among the leading reasons for relinquishment are the person's financial difficulties. That is compounded by the high cost of veterinary care. Urge your vet to promote rescue. It could be as simple as counseling clients on the benefits of adoption. Or vets can take an even more meaningful step by partnering with a local shelter or rescue group--or offering discounts to adopters, particularly those who take adult and senior pets into their homes and hearts. Older animals are much harder to place, partly due to anticipation of costly age-related health problems, even though not all dogs and cats suffer them.
Urge local housecall vets to help elderly and homeboundindividuals with disabilities or a debilitating illness--who most need a pet's love--by offering a deep discount to those on fixed incomes or who face staggering medical bills of their own. This would enable people to keep the pets they cherish or adopt a devoted feline or canine friend. The health benefits of having an animal companion, from lowering blood pressure to increasing endorphins that relieve pain, are proven. And as anyone who's been met at the door by a deliriously happy dog or had a cat snuggle into their arms knows, pets have a unique talent for bringing joy into even the darkest days. Photo: MaryAnne Polich