At-home euthanasia is a growing trend, but it can be abused

At-home euthanasia is a growing trend, but it can be abused

Sep 08, 2008
National Report -- Home euthanasia is a luxury more DVMs are offering their ailing patients.

And while it might not always seem convenient or cost-effective for veterinarians, offering at-home services like euthanasia might be necessary to keep owners from seeking alternative means to their pet's end.

Dr. Shannon Stanek, president of the American Association of House Call and Mobile Veterinarians and owner of the Exton Vet Clinic and Stanek Veterinary Services in Exton, Pa., definitely has seen evidence of house calls becoming a growing trend.

"I've got probably 10 to 15 percent of my stationary population converted over to house calls," Stanek says.

While at-home euthanasia is something Stanek easily can offer, she says pet owners who don't normally enlist the services of a mobile veterinarian may have a hard time finding a service. In that case, they have to look elsewhere, sometimes calling on a veterinarian who is not familiar with their pet's medical history.

Sometimes, Stanek's practice will get calls from people who normally visit stationary practices asking for at-home euthanasia service, but she says she always makes sure to do a full examination of the animal first.

"I've never heard of it being an issue," she says.

And it's better than leaving do-it-yourself pet owners to the alternative. The Internet is flooded with instructions offering tips on at-home euthanasia ?- and not where to find services. is one Web site that offers step-by-step instructions on how to create carbon dioxide and construct a gas chamber for at-home euthanization, which it says could ease the burden on pet owners, the pet and, in trying economic times, one's finances.

"While the services of a veterinarian should be one's first choice, some pet owners, for a variety of reasons, are choosing not to take their pets to the veterinarian ... cost may be an issue," states the article writer, referred to at the end of the "public service" piece as Eric Lee, who could not be reached through the Web site.

"The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) Panel on Euthanasia has not been asked to approve the following method, and no approval is implied," continues the Web site?s introduction. "The author is satisfied that the method is sound and readers should judge for themselves."

Though the AVMA still lists carbon dioxide as an acceptable euthanization method, it certainly is not a practice to be performed by non-veterinarians, says Stanek, who was appalled at the idea of pet owners carrying out the task themselves.

"I wouldn?t see my clients doing that," she says. "I don't think they would even consider it."

But even well-meaning services that adopt seemingly legal means of aiding at-home euthanization can run into problems.

In Ontario, Pet Heaven Funeral Services owners Eric and Shelley Blechman tried to help customers find veterinarians who would perform at-home euthanasia, but found themselves in hot water because of laws in the province that prohibit third parties from becoming involved in the practice of veterinary medicine.

The Ontario College of Veterinarians (OCV) put a stop to the couple's Toronto business, which specializes in picking up and handling arrangements for deceased pet remains, and the Blechmans now face charges of practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

While there might be a problem with referral services in Canada, Stanek says in her 12 years of practice, she has never come across any U.S. laws that prohibit any kind of veterinary referral. She gets referrals through existing clients, kennels and a number of other sources, but Stanek says she isn't aware of any non-veterinary services near her Pennsylvania clinic that offer at-home euthanasia referrals. Anyone considering delving into at-home services certainly should be aware of the various local regulations in their area, Stanek says.