“Hidden, tragic cost” of poorly socialised pets: survey reveals 98% of vets asked to euthanise healthy pets

06 September 2016

The survey shows the importance of adequate socialisation of animals at an early age

Almost
all companion animal vets have been asked to euthanise healthy pets, with half
(53%) saying this was not a rare occurrence and 98% of those who had been asked
to euthanise a healthy pet citing the owner's reason as their pet's behaviour,
reveal figures released today by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Problem
behaviours vets can see include persistent barking and howling, destructive
chewing and inappropriate toileting. Aggressive behaviour, towards both people
and other pets, is also a problem, with the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report
revealing that a third of pet owners have been attacked or bitten by a dog.
Such behaviours can cause a breakdown of the human-animal bond, leading to pets
being excluded from family life to the detriment of their welfare, relinquished
to rehoming centres or euthanised.

The
figures, obtained during BVA's Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, which
polled over 700 vets across the UK, also highlight the burden that is placed on
vets every day when they are faced with euthanising healthy animals.

BVA
says that these figures overwhelmingly show the importance of adequate
socialisation of animals at an early age – young animals should safely
encounter a variety of people, animals and everyday household sights and sounds
in their first few weeks and months of age, beginning at the place where they
are born. Many veterinary practices now offer puppy socialisation classes to
help with this.

British
Veterinary Association President Sean Wensley said:

“These
figures are stark and are likely to come as a shock to members of the public.
But this is the sad reality of a failure to socialise animals from the earliest
possible age – a specific time in a puppy's development which has a significant
impact on their future temperament and behaviour. With dogs, this process
starts from before a puppy is even seen by a potential owner. In recent months
there has been a litany of news stories about the illegal importation, breeding
and trading of puppies through puppy farms. This is no way for a family pet to
start life and we urge potential owners to thoroughly research where a puppy
has been born and reared, using the AWF/RSPCA Puppy Contract to help. Then, in
the first year of ownership, and especially in the first few weeks, work with
your local veterinary practice to ensure your puppy is introduced to everyday
sights and sounds, including other people and animals, in a safe and structured
way.”

Mr
Wensley also commented on the impact on vets:

“Nobody
enters the veterinary profession wanting to euthanise healthy pets, but this is
the stressful situation that many vets are facing because of undesirable
behaviours in pet animals. Vets will do all they can in these situations to
avoid euthanasia, including offering evidence-based behavioural advice,
referring to accredited pet behaviourists or assisting with rehoming through
reputable rehoming organisations, but sometimes these options are not
appropriate, particularly where the behavioural issues make it extremely difficult
to rehome the animal. Vets are not required to euthanise healthy animals at an
owner's request, but sometimes, having carefully considered all options and
given the circumstances the pet finds themselves in, it may be in an animal's
best interests to do so. Euthanising an animal who could have been a loving pet
is the hidden, tragic cost of poor socialisation.”

Owners
often offered a number of reasons when requesting euthanasia for their healthy
pet, with surveyed vets saying that some of the most common reasons they were
given included poor health of the owner (48%), owners moving to accommodation
that is unsuitable for their pet (39%), and legal enforcement reasons (32%).

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