Is It Legal To Euthanize A Healthy Dog? By US State.


Pets get sick and suffer from incurable diseases every day. In these circumstances euthanizing is the only way to move forward as it prevents our furry friends from prolonged suffering. But what about a healthy dog?

Is it legal to euthanize a healthy dog? Yes, It is legal to euthanize a healthy dog. The laws of who can put down a healthy dog, and the legal reasons, vary depending on the state you live in.

Below we cover each state in the USA and who is allowed to put down a dog, and the acceptable legal reasons for putting a healthy pet down.

Animal Euthanasia Law By State

Each state in the United States Of America (USA) have laws in euthanasia to allow veterinarians, animal control officers, or police officers to put down a pet that is suffering from a disease or injury, or an animal that is posing a threat to people or other animals from aggressive behavior.   

These laws are there to help protect veterinarians and officers from legal action, and to help protect your pet from unnecessary end of life.  

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC

Reasons To Euthanise A Healthy Animal

There are many reasons that a pet would come to a veterinarian for euthanasia.

Most of the time, the pet is sick or injured and can no longer be helped. 

Sometimes, however, a healthy dog may be put down because:  

  • Attacked or killed another animal.
  • Attacked or hurt a person.
  • The owner no longer wants the animal.
  • The owner is moving and cannot take the pet with them.
  • A person is moving into an assisted living and cannot take the animal.
  • The owner has passed away, and no one in the family wants the animal.
  • Animal hoarding.
  • Too many unwanted animals in a shelter. 

What Is The American Veterinary Medical Association

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is one of the main governing bodies of veterinarians.  

This organization has developed many policies that many veterinarians follow.

Their stance on euthanizing a healthy pet can be found here.

In brief, the AVMA lets each veterinarian make their own decision on whether an animal should be euthanized or not.  

They do want each veterinarian to advocate for each animal that is presented for euthanasia. 

If they [the veterinarian] do not feel that the animal needs to be euthanized, i.e the animal is not unhealthy, or aggressive, or has any abnormal behavior, they [the AVMA] recommend for the animal to be rehomed, taken to a shelter, or found a foster group that the pet can join to finish living out their life. 

However, the AVMA is not the only body creating rules when euthanizing a pet. Depending on what state you live in, there are different rules that your veterinarian must follow when euthanizing an animal.  

How Do I Ask My Vet to Euthanize My Pet

If your dog is injured, either call and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian or drop into the clinic. They can help you determine how severe the injuries of your pet are and whether anything can be done.

If your dog is suffering from a disease, charting his/her quality of life will help you, and your vet, determine when its time to put them down.

Our article when to put a dog down, gives you a guide on the quality of life scale, prompts you on the activities that you need to monitor , and provides you with information on euthanasia so you can be prepared for that dreaded day. 

If your dog is aggressive towards you, members of your family, or other animals, your veterinarian may be willing to euthanize your dogs. Discuss your concerns with your veterinarian, and they can guide you on what to do for your dog. 

Can a Vet Euthanize Without Consent?

There are situations where a veterinarian can euthanize your pet without your consent. 

If the animal was found wandering on the streets looking like it was suffering from being hit by a car and there was no way to fix him/her. The vet can euthanize to end their suffering without your consent.

However, most veterinarians will try to stabilize any furry friend and try to locate the owner before making the decision to euthanize them. If no owner is found, and your animal is suffering, they will euthanize your animal. 

Can A Vet Refuse To Put Down A Dog?

Yes, your veterinarian can refuse to euthanize your perfectly healthy dog or refuse you service for any reason. 

If a veterinarian does start treating your dog, they must continue until your pet is stable enough to transfer to another hospital.

If you want your healthy pet to be euthanized, call your veterinarian and see if they can help you rehome your dog or direct you to what to do next. 

Can A Veterinarian Say They Euthanized My Pet But Find Them Another Home?

No, a veterinarian cannot legally say that they are going to euthanize your dog and not euthanize them. 

If they find them another home and you are not aware of this, that is illegal, and your veterinarian could face legal actions. 

Can A Vet Euthanize At Home?

Yes, there are many veterinarians that will make house calls. There are also services that are for the end of life care and at-home euthanasia.  

Call your veterinarian to see if they can make a house call for euthanasia or if they know of an at-home euthanasia service.  

This is a great service that some veterinarians provide. 

Some dogs are very large and cannot be lifted into the car for a trip to the veterinary office.  Some dogs hate car rides or the vet’s office. By offering at-home euthanasia, your pet’s last memories can be happy and not of things they hate. 

Cost To Euthanize

Euthanasia can range in price depending on what is included. Generally, euthanasia will range in price from $50 to $300+.

If your veterinarian comes to your house for euthanasia there is usually a fee associated with the house call and this could be over $500. 

After euthanasia, there are different choices that vary the cost such as cremation, or burial fees. These fees could be $300 to $500 depending on the size of your dog and what options you choose. 

Our article when to put a dog down will give you an overview on burial vs cremations and what to consider when choosing an urn

What Can I Do If I No Longer Want My Dog?

There are many shelters and rescue groups that will take your animal and find them a new home.  There are even breed-specific rescue groups.

If you cannot find a rescue group near you, many cities have a shelter that they can take an animal and keep until they find a new home.  

Many people have also had success in posting their pets on social media in search of a new home.  Many of these animals can get rehomed in just a few days.

Many veterinarians are faced with rehoming unwanted and stray animals almost every day.

If you need help rehoming your animal, ask your veterinarian for tips on what you can do with your dog. 

Some of these tips are: 

  • Posting on social media
  • Posting flyers at local dog parks
  • Post flyers at local veterinary clinics
  • Asking your shelter to bring your dog to one of their adoption day events
  • Looking for local rescue organizations

Conclusion.

Euthanasia is not something that should be taken lightly. This is a legal way to help end suffering. 

Many pets will develop a disease or injury that cannot be treated. When your pet is suffering, your veterinarian can euthanize your dog.  This is one of the best gifts that a veterinarian can give your dog is to take away their pain and suffering.

While sometimes a dog is no longer wanted or cannot be taken with an owner to a new place and may come to a veterinary office for euthanasia.  By looking into other options for your dog, you can give your dog a happy life with another family that will love your dog just like you did. 

Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM

Raised in Calhoun, LA, Sara attended Louisiana Tech for her undergraduate school, and afterwards St. George University to complete veterinary school. After veterinary school Dr. Ochoa moved to east Texas to work in a small animal an exotic veterinarian. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the schnoodle, Monkey the tortoise and Oliver James “OJ” the cat. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, baking, and taking Ruby shopping.

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