Will a vet refuse to put a dog down? A Step-by-Step Guide

Laws About a Vet Killing a Healthy Animal

If you ask a vet to put your pet down, it is called “owner-requested euthanasia” or “convenience euthanasia.”

Your vet has the legal right to euthanize a healthy animal if:

  • It is beyond behavioral rehabilitation
  • It is dangerous or has behavioral issues
  • Nothing can be done to safely rehome the dog
  • Deciding that an animal is beyond help is subjective to the veterinarian. They have euthanasia guidelines to follow under the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

    Sometimes a vet may refuse euthanasia, and they will surrender the animal to a shelter, which may choose to euthanize the animal.

    There are criminal penalties for animal cruelty. Anyone can report you if you kill a pet in a manner that is considered:

    Animal cruelty penalties can include jail time, probation, or fines. You will face criminal charges in court and need an attorney to defend you.

    The laws and ordinances can be different for farms, slaughterhouses, and working farm animals. Check your local ordinances if you are not sure.

    Can A Vet Refuse To Put Down A Dog?

    Yes, your veterinarian can refuse to euthanize your perfectly healthy dog or refuse you service for any reason.

    If a veterinarian does start treating your dog, they must continue until your pet is stable enough to transfer to another hospital.

    If you want your healthy pet to be euthanized, call your veterinarian and see if they can help you rehome your dog or direct you to what to do next.

    But vets may also feel strongly that killing animals for insufficient reasons is, though legal, contrary to their professional role.

    Owners absolutely intent on killing their healthy or treatable pets can still attend a willing vet clinic or animal shelter. But it is possible that in light of the vet’s clear moral stance, some owners will reconsider their decision to end their pets’ lives – now and in the future. And at least some owners will be persuaded to surrender their pet to another home.

    It’s true some medical and behavioural conditions cannot be adequately treated. But sadly, some owners cannot afford veterinary treatment for treatable problems. This can lead to agonising moral decisions for both pet owners and veterinarians.

    Another concern is that conscientious objection unfairly shifts responsibility from one vet to another. But declining to kill animals for inadequate reasons should be prioritised over any notion of being “unfair” to other vets.

    As health care professionals, vets are powerfully guided by a duty to protect their patients from harm, including premature death.

    Can a vet refuse to put a dog down?