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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Inspiration And Shelter Euthanization

Wow, I'm slipping!  For whatever reason I've been very lazy with the blog this month, posting less than I have in a very long time.  Let's make up for that!

Wonder about the today's blog title?  It's based on a couple of questions from a reader (that I'm really late getting to!):

We really enjoyed reading your blog. We are aspiring veterinarians and would like to ask what inspired you to become a veterinarian. Also we were wondering what your stand on euthanization of animals in animal shelters is. One day we would like to open our own animal shelter and we were wondering if you could give us some tips on what we will need to be prepared for. Again we love your blog and thank you for everything.

What inspired me?  I've always loved animals and science.  When I was young I would take volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia with me to the pool to read just for fun.  I always loved nature shows like Wild Kingdom and those on PBS and couldn't get enough of watching them.  So when I started thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up veterinary medicine was just a natural fit.  When I was 14 I started working for a local vet and saw a different side of things behind the scenes, which just reinforced my interest.  Honestly, from the time I was nine I couldn't imagine doing anything else, and worked towards that goal until I achieved it.  I can't say that there was one moment that really focused me on being a vet.

Euthanizing animals in shelters....that's a sad subject, and one of the reasons why I could never be a vet under those conditions.  I have a lot of respect for those who chose shelter medicine as it's a very tough and emotionally charged job.  I hate the idea that homeless pets have to be put to sleep.  It breaks my heart to know that those animals are unwanted, sick, or have otherwise not been given a place with a human family.  I wish none of them ever had to be euthanized and that all could find permanent homes.

But I know this isn't realistic.  Some animals are too sick to be adopted or have serious behavioral problems.  And truthfully there just isn't enough time, space, and money to house all of the indefinitely.  It's a harsh reality of life that some animals will need to be euthanized to prevent them from suffering or simply to make room for more of them.  I certainly understand why it needs to be done and can't fault anyone for doing it.  I admire no-kill shelters, but the resources simply aren't there to allow this to happen everywhere.

What can someone expect being in shelter medicine?  Honestly I only have a peripheral knowledge and hopefully someone who has worked in that situation can chime in.  I do know that there is little money and the cases are very hard with a higher percentage of animals put to sleep than you'll find in general practice.  You also do more crisis management than preventative care.  You don't get to follow pets from youth to adulthood.  Normally you get paid less than in private practice, something that really needs to be evaluated considering current debt loads.

Tomorrow, more questions from readers!