Mills Baker is a former veterinary technician in a small animal hospital. Here, he responds to the Quora question: How do vets deal with animals who will be put down just because a surgery is too much money?
When I worked at a veterinary hospital, our two veterinarians had pretty different attitudes about this (rather common) situation, reflecting their values and ages in my opinion.
The older veterinarian felt that pets were wonderful, important, worthy of love and compassion and affection, but he still regarded them as property, as categorically different from not only humans but indeed the human world.
He felt untroubled by humans who didn’t prioritise their pet’s health over all else; he viewed cost-based decisions about pet healthcare as not only reasonable, but unexceptional. He was always willing to work with owners to try and make things affordable, but if an owner, for example, decided not to pursue hip replacement and to instead euthanise a dog, he didn’t find that problematic.
For his generation, pets were a class of animals but remained animals; and by his values, animals were more or less like property, to fit into (or not fit into) the lives of humans as humans themselves saw fit. Only cruelty to animals bothered him, and as he didn’t regard euthanasia —or a shortened lifespan— as cruel, he was comfortable with it.
The younger veterinarian felt that pets, and maybe all animals, were “better than humans,” and should be subjects of more or less infinite devotion for anyone morally decent. No cost was too steep, nor was any therapeutic regimen too rigorous; if for example, a pet needed to be held up to go to the bathroom for 3 months and a single-parent complained that they weren’t sure how they’d manage, she seemed to feel mostly anger or contempt.
In her view, a pet is a child, and you should always do absolutely everything you can for your child. Cost calculations struck her as immoral and outrageous, which seemed like a tough spot to be in working in a Louisiana vet where many clients were poor. She felt the injustice she perceived acutely; it would weigh on her for days, and she often said that she hated people generally and pet owners specifically.