After a rather depressing visit to a local horse sanctuary full of miserable horses this week and another meeting with my vet about the life expectancy of my horse, the topic of euthanasia for horses and dogs has been on my mind.
Chatting it through with the girls at the stables, we all agreed that it was quality of life that mattered – not quantity and that just because an animal wasn’t actually dying there was no hard and fast rule that it should be kept alive. Animals with incurable behavioural issues that mean they can’t be rehomed, animals in constant pain or animals that have quite clearly had enough all deserve the most dignified, pain and distress free end we can give them.
Which makes me wonder about Dogs Trust and the message they’ve been running for the last few years that ‘we never put a healthy dog down’. It’s a great positioning from a marketing point of view as it would clearly appeal to animal lovers who anthropomorphise animals and believe they have a right to life.
The line also positions Dogs Trust as the best dog charity to support if the thought of healthy dogs being put down distresses you – I’m always amazed when I deal with the marketing teams of charities by how they often see other charities aiming for the same goals as them as competition not collaborators.
But I’m not sure that this messaging is actually in the best interests of all of their animals. Where do you draw the line at ‘healthy’? For example, with an exuberant Staffie (they’re sweet dogs but very full-on and some have been turned irrevocably nasty by abuse, giving them a bad reputation) who is never going to be rehomed and will spend the next 5 years in kennels (which we know is a very stressful place to be for a dog) it may actually be kinder to spare the dog all that stress and put them to sleep. But it sounds like Dogs Trust wouldn’t do that. Estimates vary, but it looks like Staffies take up between 40% and 80% of space in charity kennels at the moment while presumably other dogs who could be rehomed and go on to a fulfilling life can’t be accommodated.
What’s a charity to do? Chose a positioning that will bring in the most money to support their cause – or one that seems (to me to be) best from a welfare point of view?