Report Pet Euthanasia Gone Wrong

Take action to address injustice, hold vets accountable, and reduce recurrence of bad pet euthanasia


“I am not going to crawl under a rock and lick my wounds, I am going to blow the whistle as loud as I possibly can.” 
― Steven Magee

Document the failures that occurred, discuss them with the vet, research vet complaint history, file new complaint, and post reviews

POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF TAKING THE ABOVE ACTIONS:

It is very important to take action after a pet euthanasia goes badly, in order to ensure that the same tragedy doesn't occur again to other pets.

Taking action can also be personally therapeutic for pet owners, as it can help relieve some of the pain, grief, trauma and guilt that is usually is caused by a botched euthanasia.

 (For credits, click on or tap photo.)

Refuge in Grief explains that taking action can serve as temporary respite for those who don't think perpetual or prolonged grief is a disorder or failure to be treated therapeutically; respite while fashioning a new self to carry this permanent loss into a new life. 

For accounts of bad pet euthanasia, to understand why it might need to be reported, read Pet Euthanasia Gone Wrong, by Jill Breitner, professional dog trainer. (Also see her follow-up article Euthanizing an Old Dog: How it Works and What to Expect. This follow up article also applies to cats and all other animals, and gives guidance on how to make sure a pet euthanasia goes smoothly, peacefully and painlessly.)

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE AFTER A BAD PET EUTHANASIA: 

 

1. Write down a full account of what occurred, with as many details as possible, as soon as you can after the euthanasia procedure.

- It might also be helpful to create an audio recording of what happened using a tablet or Smart phone app, or another type of voice recorder, in order to document as many details of what happened as quickly as possible.

 

2. Address the issue with your vet.

- Express to your vet as needed why you feel the euthanasia failed or was unacceptable, or why you are upset, if you are.

- Find out and record all of the details of what was done and what went wrong. Try to get these details in writing from the vet via email or text.

- Obtain your pet's records. You have a legal right to a copy of them.

- Find out what the vet is open to doing or planning on doing to address the damage done. (For example, return your payment or not require payment, apologize, etc.)

- Find out what they plan to do to ensure a failed euthanasia won't happen again to another animal that they are responsible for. 

If you'd like to view a sample letter to a vet clinic, click here.

 

3. Find out if your vet has been reported previously by searching complaints on your veterinary board website.

- The more reports already filed, the better the chance that significant action will be taken by the veterinary board. If there are none, yours will be helpful for other pet owners in the future.

 

4. File a complaint with your American state, Canadian province, U.S. possession or national veterinary board by taking the below steps: 

Note: The reporting process will likely ask if you already tried to resolve the issue with your veterinarian, and what specific actions you took, so it is important to take that step first.

a) Go to the website of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

b) Scroll down on the page to the Board and Agency Directory section.

c) Use the drop down menu where it says "Select" to find your veterinary board website and contact information.

d) Go to that website and file a complaint online at your veterinary board website. 

For tips about complaints and filing them, click here.

To view a sample complaint, see here.

 

5. Post reviews of your vet clinic, veterinarian or vet service online at review sites. (Yelp, Google Reviews, Angie's List, etc.)

In the likely event that any complaint you file yields either no official results or unsatisfactory official results, you may find posting reviews to be a most effective method of encouraging improvement as this can often put pressure on a practitioner to change their methods. They don't want their reputation and business negatively affected by bad reviews. You may also find reviews the most direct and effective method of alerting other prospective pet euthanasia clients about what happened to you and your animal companion at this facility. That may reduce the chance of recurrence. If you'd care to view an actual review, click here.

 

VETERINARIAN OATHS: 

Reviewing the Veterinarian Oaths below may help you determine whether or not they were violated in your case. If so, this may be an important point to include in any complaints you file.

 

AMERICAN OATH:

The Veterinarian's Oath was adopted by the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates July 1969, and amended by the AVMA Executive Board, November 1999 and December 2010. 
 
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
 
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.
 
CANADIAN OATH:
 
The Veterinarian Oath taken by Canadian veterinarians, established by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association in 2004, has some minor deviations from that of the American Veterinary Medical Association. It reads as follows:
 
As a member of the veterinary medical profession, I solemnly swear that I will use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society.
 
I will strive to promote animal health and welfare, relieve animal suffering, protect the health of the public and environment, and advance comparative medical knowledge.
 
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
 
I will strive continuously to improve my professional knowledge and competence and to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards for myself and the profession.
 

For pet owners outside the United States or Canada, please search for the Veterinary Oath for your country.

 

VETERINARY PRACTICE ACTS:

Consulting the Veterinary Practice Act of your state, U.S. possession, province or nation may help you determine whether or not a violation has occurred. The Preamble of the Model Veterinary Practice Act by the American Veterinary Medicine Association states:

The purpose of this Act is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public and animals by ensuring the delivery of competent veterinary medical care.

For a directory of U.S. state Veterinary Practice Acts, click here.

 

VETERINARY LICENSING BOARDS:

No directory of Canadian, U.S. possession or other national Veterinary Practice Acts has been found, but a directory of U.S. state, U.S. possession, Canadian and many international Veterinary Licensing Boards exists and may be helpful. Scroll down on the page to the Board and Agency Directory section, then click the drop down menu that says "Select", after clicking here.

 

POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF TAKING THE ABOVE ACTIONS:

As mentioned, taking some or all of the above actions may be very therapeutic in that it may help you to endure and/or recover from any trauma you may have experienced due to a bad pet euthanasia. Equally important, taking action will hopefully also reduce future occurrences of traumatic pet euthanasia.

Please feel free to share your questions, comments or feedback on this topic on our Message Board or below. Thanks!

(Dog photo courtesy of cityslide.com, licensed from Ron Chapple Photography.)

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