There is No Such Thing.
The No Kill Advocacy Center defines “irremediable physical suffering” as an animal who has “a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain even with comprehensive, prompt, and necessary veterinary care,” such as animals in fulminant organ system failure. But some shelters and their allies have suggested that the definition is too narrow as it does not allow for mental suffering.
Several years ago, for example, the ASPCA authored legislation in New York which would have allowed shelters to kill animals, with no holding period of any kind, if those animals were deemed to be in “psychological pain.” The killing of these animals, it was argued, was morally justified because it was ostensibly being done in their best interest. Even if we assume this was not dissimulation, although it most certainly was, the argument rested on a premise that has never been properly vetted—whether or not there is such a thing as “irremediable psychological suffering.” Moreover, there were no standards on how the shelter would make that determination, no objective measures on how it should be applied, no mandatory training or credentials on the part of the staff to do so.
Under the ASPCA-sponsored bill, if any two shelter employees—including the janitor, the receptionist, or a kennel attendant—believed that an animal was in “psychological pain,” that animal could have been killed immediately, before the animal’s family came to look for him, indeed, before anyone even knew he was missing. In essence, this bill was designed to allow for the killing of animals by people unqualified to make such a determination, and in the absence of any measurable, objective criteria to do so.
Since then, others have tried to do similar things in other states. But even if the bill (and subsequent ones) did not have these procedural defects; if it had been written with more rigor—strict criteria, mandated training of personnel, tested tools and evaluation strategies, the involvement of people who understand the science of animal behavior and have an in depth knowledge of the data, the concurrence of a veterinarian board certified in behavior medicine—would that change the primary defect? Can dogs, cats, and other animals be so traumatized that they should not be—indeed would not want to be—alive? In short, is there such a thing as “irremediable psychological suffering”?
No. There is no such thing as an animal who is irremediably psychologically or behaviorally suffering.
Read my article explaining why in The Huffington Post by clicking here.
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