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  • David Jefferson

The Why

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

The following is from Dr J's book Goodbye Old Friend:The Euthanasia of Your Horse

Too many, the words love, hope, and dreams are synonymous with horses.

-Author unknown

Why do we have to do it anyway? In dogs and cats we use the term

“putting them to sleep”. In our domestic large animals, from goats to horses, we

call it “putting them down”. As sophisticated as veterinary medicine has

become, can’t we keep them going longer? The fact is, with all the medicine and

techniques we have, there will always be conditions that we just can’t deal with.

The fading horse like Old Red, the draft horse with a fractured hip, the pony

so badly foundered it can’t get up, the colicky horse too far gone to make it to a

surgical facility. The list is long. The only option in such cases is humane

destruction. The correct term is euthanasia. This is a word from two Greek

roots which translates as “easy death”. It doesn’t mean easy decision or easy

solution. It does mean immediate relief from incurable suffering or a lingering


When I am called to put a horse down, I often hear the comment,

“This must be the hardest part of your job.” Actually, it’s not. I won’t put horses

down just for the convenience of the owner. It is always because, in my

judgment, the horse needs to be released, and I feel that this is the last kind thing

that can be done for an animal in trouble.

Don’t worry about your ability to make a decision when it’s time. I can

assure you that almost always, when the time does come, the decision makes

itself. The actual laying away of an animal is often the only solution to a problem

that has become unbearable. It is not a decision to dread ahead of time. Part of

being a caring animal owner is the willingness to accept responsibility for an end

of life decision. My loyal veterinary technician and good friend, Erin Austin, has a

question to ask when in doubt. “Am I keeping this animal alive for their sake, or

my own?”

Grief is so painfully real, regardless of its origin. The love of and attachment to

our animal friend can equal that of human relationships. Likewise, the loss of an

animal can be just as devastating.

-Rev. Joel L Morgan

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