Aggression and children: When euthanasia is a valid choice


Reader sympathizes with a DVM making the tough call.

I would like to comment on "Gone too Soon-When ethics and euthanasia conflict" (July 2014 issue). I know it's hard to euthanize a young, healthy pet with aggression issues. I've been working in the veterinary field for more than 30 years and have seen many aggression cases. Unfortunately, I've seen the opposite side of waiting out an aggression issue or chalking it up to a "fluke."

Years ago I had a dog that "nipped" a toddler who came to visit during a family reunion. Was there too much excitement and commotion? Probably. Even the ER doctor treating the child felt bad for the dog. Later, this same dog bit my daughter going after the same toy. Again, we thought, "Just an accident," but we were more cautious. Later, when my neighbor's son spent the weekend with us and played with the dog, everything seemed fine. One day a week later, the dog attacked this boy, unprovoked. After 90 stitches to the child's face that nearly missed his right eye, the stress of living with children and an unpredictable dog was too much and we had the dog put down.

In aggression cases where children are involved, I feel this is the best option. Children must come first. We can't expect them to know how to behave around an aggressive dog. Have I second-guessed my choice in keeping this dog after the first incident?  Yes, I have! I know there is no black-and-white answer, and every situation is different, but where children are involved, euthanasia must be strongly considered. My practice's owner has always said: There are so many nice, friendly dogs waiting to be adopted, why tolerate aggression? And yes, we do believe in and regularly refer patients to behaviorists when needed.

Audrey Shaner

Technician and business manager

Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania

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