A decision by the Serbian Veterinary Association (SVA) to support the decriminalisation of pet euthanasia in any and all circumstances has generated huge controversy.
Pet advocate groups have expressed concern about how such a change in the law might be abused by those who feel that having a pet is no longer convenient for them, or who have simply grown tired of their pets or can’t be bothered looking after them.
Critics say that vets should be concerned about the rights of pets and not just go with pet owners’ personal preferences. Pets, they argue, are vulnerable animals and deserve stronger legal protection from those who may have a financial or emotional interest in their deaths.
Ilena Berovic, CEO of the animal charity ‘Pet Protection’ said, ‘Vets should protect the rights of pets as well as proving services to pet owners. There should be strong protection in law to safeguard against the exploitation, neglect or abuse of pets. Pets cannot speak for themselves or defend themselves so vets need to be their voice and defence.’
The SVA does not agree and has today defended its new policy. I reproduce here a statement (translated from Serbian) from the SVA president justifying the move.
‘Let me put the record straight about what the SVA is actually supporting. It is in favour of decriminalising pet euthanasia. In keeping with this position, the SVA does not believe it is right that in the 21st century those pet owners who choose to have their pets euthanized can be criminalised.
Put simply, this means they can be sent to jail for pet euthanasia, unless it is within the parameters of the Pet Euthanasia Act, which effectively gives other people control over pet owners’ decision-making.
The Pet Euthanasia Act requires that two vets approve every case of pet euthanasia, which can cause delays in and prolong this very difficult time for pet owners. Provisions in the Act are also used to prevent pet owners using the ‘pet euthanasia pill’ at home in their own time, requiring instead that they attend multiple appointments at a clinic, denying them choice over when the euthanasia is carried out.
If we are to be advocates for pet owners, then we must advocate for choice on all aspects of their care.
Accordingly, the SVA believes that pet euthanasia should be removed from the criminal law. That is why we took the decision to back the campaign calling for the decriminalisation of pet euthanasia across Serbia. The campaign calls for every pet owner to be given the necessary information to make their own informed choice as to whether or not to continue with a pet. The SVA is not advocating for or against pet euthanasia.
Nor is the SVA arguing for a complete free-for-all, with no controls. Rather, we are recommending that pet euthanasia procedures be regulated in the same way as all other procedures relating to pet healthcare. This would mean that decisions on pet euthanasia would occur in the same way that any other treatment decisions are reached, through discussion between the owner, their vets and other veterinary staff.
The SVA believes that if we are to be advocates for pet owners then we must advocate for choice on all aspects of pet care. Being a vet involves being for pet owners and about respecting their choices regarding their pets. It is about supporting them through the good times and the bad.
Decriminalisation is not the outrageous idea that some sections of the press suggest. It is already a reality in other countries and the pet euthanasia rate has not gone up as a result.
This is not about what we personally believe. This is about the pet owners we care for; it is about their lives and the choices they make. We will not have to live their lives once their decision is made.
I would urge people to read and consider the arguments that we set out in our position statement, and those set out by the ‘We trust pet owners’ campaign. It is in favour of people having a choice over their pet’s care, including whether to continue having a pet or not. We are not coming out either for or against pet euthanasia; we are for pet owners.’
As I’m sure you will have realised this article and statement is a spoof. The Serbian Veterinary Association (SVA) does not actually exist. There is in fact a Serbian Association of Small Animal Practitioners (SASAP) but it has made no such statement.
The statement above was instead produced by taking the statement by the CEO of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in the Guardian today on the decriminalisation of abortion and making the following changes throughout: RCM becomes SVA, abortion becomes pet euthanasia, doctor becomes vet, woman becomes person or pet owner.