The Standard Group Plc is a multi-media organization with investments in media platforms spanning newspaper print operations, television, radio broadcasting, digital and online services. The Standard Group is recognized as a leading multi-media house in Kenya with a key influence in matters of national and international interest.
  • Standard Group Plc HQ Office,
  • The Standard Group Center,Mombasa Road.
  • P.O Box 30080-00100,Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Telephone number: 0203222111, 0719012111
  • Email: [email protected]

Doctors recommend counselling for pet owners in mercy killings

Health & Science
 Emmanuel Olande with his dogs. Hash (left) was euthanized.  [Courtesy]

On July 1, 2018, Emmanuel Olande took his seven-year-old dog, Hash, to the animal clinic to breathe his last, peacefully.

Olande says Hash, who was a mixture of a Rottweiler and a German Shepherd, was a bubbly happy dog who loved to play, but was very fierce to strangers because he was a guard dog.

“I love dogs; I grew up in a family that loves dogs. Hash was a lovely dog. After a long day at work he would be excited to see me,” he says.

After a while, Hash lost his bubbliness and after further checkup, they discovered that he had cancer.

Apart from being a guard dog, he also was a member of the family, and for three months they prayed and hoped that the medication would work, until the veterinary doctor gave them the news that broke their hearts.

“The doctor told us that the chemotherapy treatment was just prolonging his suffering, so he recommended euthanasia,” he says.

The first day of July, Hash’s last day on earth, was clouded with mixed emotions for Olande.

There was relief that he would no longer be in pain, but also grief that he would no longer be there leaping for joy when Olande got back home from a busy day. His companion was transitioning to a painless space.

Olande says the loss was so overwhelming that he could not be present for the procedure.

“It was my off day at work but I still decided to go to work because I was grieving. My family was also grieving. Hash was just seven years old. We hoped we would watch him grow old,” he says

Olande says that he did not go for therapy; he just took time off to grieve his best friend Hash. Currently, he has six dogs and he hopes to add more.

According to Dr Gabriel Ouma, a vet doctor at Small Five Vet Clinic, euthanasia reduces the suffering of animals that are beyond treatment like cancer.

This procedure is recommended for animals with conditions that are beyond repair, for example, if they cannot walk or control normal body functions like eating or urinating.

 Dr Gabriel Ouma, a veterinary surgeon at Small Five Vet Clinic, cleans a dog. [Courtesy]

“Once the pet is brought in for mercy killing, the vet will assess and confirm that euthanasia is really needed. In cases where euthanasia is not urgent, the owner will be allowed to take the pet home to spend its last days together. They then set a date when the euthanasia can be done. For pets that are admitted, the owner can visit them until such a time they will consent to euthanasia,” says Dr Ouma.

Euthanasia works by first sedating the body and then shutting the heart permanently. The pet owner can be allowed to be present but it is optional. Dr Ouma says there is pre and post-counselling for pet owners.

Lifestyle diseases

“We also issue a sympathy card where we advise owners to seek help and counselling post euthanasia when need be. We take care of burial arrangements, whether burial at home, incineration, or disposal at an approved mass grave. We are there with the family till the end,” he says.

Dr Desmond Tutu, a vet doctor at Yaya Veterinary Clinic says for those in rented spaces, the vet organises disposal of the body through the central veterinary laboratories based in Kabete.

"Recently, a lot of clients opt for cremation. This is done at The KSPCA and at the University of Nairobi veterinary pathology department,” he says.

Dr Tutu says in a month he handles two to four euthanasia cases. The cost of the procedure depends on the situation.

Elective euthanasia is more expensive, but the procedure averages between Sh4,500 for a cat and Sh8,000 to Sh15,000 for dogs. You will pay as much as Sh30,000 for larger animals like horses.

“Insurance in pet and livestock is still not well developed. I've never signed or done paperwork for insurance to cover euthanasia. I am not aware of any insurance company covering the procedure,” he says.

Dr Tutu says a majority of Kenyans are aware of the procedure but a lot still needs to be done to sensitise and educate pet owners.

Compared to cats, dogs age faster and develop lifestyle diseases that compromise their welfare. Cats live a little longer but have various types of malignant cancers that are not treatable. Horses also get euthanised mostly due to age or illness and fractures of the limbs.

Dr Tutu says a lot still needs to be done on animal welfare education. Veterinarians are advocating for animal welfare education to be introduced into the school curriculum. Only then will the situation change.

Counselling Psychologist Jacqueline Gathu says losing a pet is losing a family member. In case the loss is psychologically overwhelming, seeking professional help is highly recommended.

 Euthanasia reduces the suffering of animals that are beyond treatment. [iStockphoto]

“There are animals that are adopted for mental health support. They help in relieving stress. There is a way a dog would react when they see you when you come back home from a long stressful day,” says Gathu.

Gathu says that pets help children in learning better communication and sharing, therefore they, too, are affected by the loss of a pet.

“Children process things differently. So you need to remind them that their pet will not come back. You need to use age-appropriate language. Below three years they would not understand the magnitude of death but older than that they might understand,” she says.

“Your child had a connection with the pet, so if you feel they are overwhelmed by grief, seek professional help. You can look for an accredited child and adolescent therapist.”

Dr Allan Elavula, chairman of Kenya Small and Companion Animals Veterinary Association, says the law prevents cruelty to, and controls experiments on animals.

“In Part 2 on the offences in relation to animal’s act and omissions which amounts to cruelty and penalty, sub-section (j) states, 'When the animal is so seriously injured or diseased that to prolong its life will cause it unnecessary suffering', so we have provisions in the law in regards to euthanasia and also to compliment is veterinary surgeons and veterinary paraprofessionals Act Cap 366 that prescribes humane ways of euthanasia,” he says.

On animal welfare, Elavula says people are becoming more aware of animal rights. "More needs to be done, for example, courses about animal welfare in schools. Also having rewards to people championing animal welfare,” he says.

Animal Welfare and Protection Bill, 2019, currently under consideration by Parliament, is expected to change the existing welfare framework by implementing the World Organisation for Animal Health principles into domestic legislation, introducing new animal abuse offences and enhancing penalties.

Related Topics


Trending Now


Popular this week