The Ottawa Humane Society believes that owners whose companion animals suffer from incurable illness are responsible either for providing suitable palliative care (that is, comfort measures, including medication, to manage pain) for that animal or, should that not be an option, for providing for the humane euthanasia of their companion animal if the animal’s suffering cannot otherwise be alleviated.
Willfully neglecting or failing to provide suitable care for an animal, regardless of the animal’s life stage or prognosis, constitutes an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and may result in charges.
The Ottawa Humane Society believes that, because many animals do not exhibit pain in an apparent manner, the owner cannot alone make a determination of their animal’s level of suffering. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the pet owner to consult with a veterinarian regarding any decisions around palliation and/or euthanasia.
Should an owner opt for palliative care for their companion animal, they are responsible for consulting with a veterinarian to establish a care plan for that animal and for regularly following up with a veterinarian to assess the animal’s condition, including providing for any veterinary treatment required to meet the animal’s needs. For example, dentistry may be required to alleviate suffering caused by dental problems in an older animal.
During the time that palliative care is administered, the owner is responsible for ensuring that all of the animal’s usual and developing care needs are met to keep the animal clean and comfortable. Owners should be aware that, as an animal’s health declines, these needs may become time-consuming and onerous. The animal may require toileting on a frequent basis, including throughout the night, may require additional grooming (including more frequent bathing, clipping of hair and nails) and hand feeding.
Palliative care remains a viable option only as long as an animal’s pain can be managed as determined by a veterinarian and only as long as an owner remains able to meet the usual and developing care needs of the animal; thereafter, the only humane option is euthanasia.
The Ottawa Humane Society recognizes the pain and heartache involved with the loss of a beloved companion animal but cautions that owners must always place their animal’s welfare above their feelings for that animal.
Approved by the OHS board of Directors May 2005