Animals are persons too

They each have a face, and having a face is just another thing that we all share.

Last night in the Huffington Post I read about Edgar the cat. She (yes, Edgar is a girl) had her face reattached after an unfortunate incident with a fan belt – in winter, cats will sometimes seek refuge under the hood of a car when the engine is still warm. If they’re lucky, they get out when you open the car door, or are woken up with a start when the motor turns over and escape with minimal or no damage to their little bodies, but sometimes they are killed more or less instantly or suffer catastrophic injury. Edgar’s accident was somewhere in between: major – catastrophic, to be sure – damage to the skin of his face, but the damage wasn’t immediately life-threatening, as he made it back home on all four feet with eyes and mouth intact and no major bleeding. Of course, without treatment, infection and fever would have quickly set in and he would have died – eventually. This type of accident is only one of the neverending variety of misfortunes that happen to cats and dogs. Sometimes, vets can only speculate on what caused an injury, because the animal victim is often the only witness. Did that cat return home with only three legs because it was caught in a trap, or was it a car accident, or foul play? Etc.

Kudos to Edgar’s owner: when she regained consciousness after catching a glimpse of the face hanging off his skull, she took her straight to the vet. And félicitations to the vet, for doing such a great surgical job on Edgar’s face. Not just any vet would have been able to tackle that job successfully. I’m a vet myself, though I don’t do surgery, and I’m pretty sure only one of my colleagues at the local clinic would have the surgical guts and expertise required for this job.

Still, the mechanical skills of this type of surgery have been in practice for a long time, even hundreds of years – certain individual surgeons are on historical record as having had excellent dexterity and manual skills, but these often failed because they didn’t have the modern advantages of knowledge about how tissues heal and the techniques and medicines for control of infection – not to mention the materials, anaesthetics, and other small but vital (and sometimes expensive) details that increase the chances of a very successful outcome.

But the key element here was the owner’s immediate decision to treat. I’d be willing to bet that a majority of cat owners would make the same decision. Some, however, would or could not. Some people would take one look at a catastrophically damaged face and make the immediate decision to euthanise, just to stop the suffering, unable to imagine that it could be healed. Others, faced with terrible financial constraints and an inability to beg, borrow or steal, would opt for euthanasia when the vet pulls out the fee estimate, which would likely be in the range of a few to several hundred dollars, depending on the location and type and of clinic or hospital – not including the extra cost if Edgar was not brought in during regular clinic hours.

I wouldn’t want to judge the person who would opt for euthanasia due to an inability to pay. As for those who’d have no trouble paying, but choose not to, even when they receive assurance that the chances of complete recovery are good – that’s another story.

But what about the animals who never make it in to the clinic in the first place, for treatment or euthanasia? Animals without owners, deliberately abandoned, or temporarily lost? We don’t want to think about what happens to them, much the same way we don’t want to think about unfortunate humans. What about the animals owned by people who can’t afford to pay their own health care bills, never mind those of their animals? Here in Canada, we’re a bit more lucky that way – most of our medical needs are covered by a socialised system wherein those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pay taxes chip in to look out for everyone else, including the ones who can’t do likewise. It’s not charity, it’s simply an application of the Golden Rule – a what-would-Jesus-do kind of thing.

But with health care costs mounting for all kinds of reasons – especially including the huge increase in the variety and quality of things we *can* do to ensure the best possible outcomes – I’m glad we’re still called upon to chip in. Because most often, the ones who need help the most are usually the ones who can’t ask and can’t pay.

I don’t think we need a different kind of health care system here in Canada. I think what we need to do is continue to work toward ensuring the best possible care for everyone, irrespective of their ability to pay.
And maybe someday, in my “socialist” utopia, animals will benefit from the same kind of consideration…

Explore posts in the same categories: Animals, medicine

6 Comments on “Animals are persons too”

  1. skdadl Says:

    brebis noire, I think you know what a struggle I have with stories of animal abuse or even just injury. That’s the reason I admire so much and support as much as I can the people like you who are willing to face all you do and act as effectively as you do.

    We need socialized medicine for animals too, but we are facing a government that may be determined to destroy that system for people, that is certainly determined to move the propaganda goalposts far away from your and my notions of what is humane and should be universally available.

    Hard times. The best way to cope with them is with hard information, the facts. You can do that, and I am so happy to see you speaking truth to the world with this blog.

    With every good wish,

  2. Antonia Says:

    Yay! Welcome to blogoland. Please don’t make us too sad.

  3. Beijing York Says:

    Oh brebis, that story brought back memories of a young cat that got caught under our family’s car. We rushed him to the vet. I was very young and don’t know if I repressed how it all worked out because I can’t remember much other than the horror.

    And by the way, welcome to the blogging world!

  4. brebisnoire Says:

    Thank you skdadl. I guess it is just a tiny bit easier for me to face injury and suffering from animals because I’m…well, used to it in a certain way as you know. But getting used to it has also involved creating a certain distance, and that’s not a good thing.
    Yes – we mustn’t let them erode the system. Pushing back, and pointing out the good things that can and are getting done.

  5. brebisnoire Says:

    Thanks Antonia ! But this was a happy story… 🙂

    Beijing, as you mention that I remember what happened to one of the barn kittens I adopted out to somebody nearby (actually, it was a twosome). I later learned that it had been killed in a similar accident. When my son learned of that, he wouldn’t let me give any more kittens away (everyone got spayed as a more or less direct result of that…)

  6. anne cameron Says:

    Hi, Brebis: I’ve never had a healthy animal euthenized; I look on “putting down” an animal as being the last act of love and compassion we can provide. I have often thought we should be allowed that escape from pain and suffering ourselves.

    My usual response to an animal in crisis is to take it home and see what I can do about the situation myself: we’re three to four hours from a vet so it’s kind of necessary to be self sufficient! Some years ago I heard a cat yowling that particular plaintive noise that means real distress. Took me two days to coax her out from under an abandoned trailer. Scrawny, obviously in real trouble, she was a Manx with badly crippled back legs. Brought her home, warmed her up, fed her…called her Crip. Of course she proved to be pregnant. Abandoned when the owners left town. How they thought she could hunt or cope when she was almost dragging her back legs is a mystery to me. Well, she had her kitties but I think it “did something” to her, the back legs got less useful, she couldn’t get into her litter box by herself, and pretty soon she couldn’t stop the bowel drainage, I was bathing her rear end several times a day and she still stank…I was making arrangements to get her to a vet when by raw luck a vet came to town to do “shots”. Took Crip in. News was not good, I was told she was just going to get more and more paralyzed, I guess it’s something that crops up in Manx breeds. She was still nursing kitties but…long and short, she was put down that day. The boxer dog and I subbed as fosters.

    I haven’t seen the people who abandoned this poor little soul to a slow death by starvation, and I hope I never do meet them because I don’t really like the idea of standing in court charged with assault. She was a sweet and loving little thing and she deserved much better than those arstles gave her.

    Two of my dogs are rescue dogs. My daughter’s dog is an SPCA special. If I had a million dollars we’d have more rescue critters.

    I saw a BBC special on purebred animals, particularly the ones in the show ring and what a cut-throat nasty business that is. The genetic flaws are increasing at horrible rate because of inbreeding and breeding for “beauty”.

    There’s nothing more beautiful than a healthy animal of whatever parentage living a life where it is treasured. My grandbaby Lilli has “Chumiss”, he was a feral and saved mere hours before his mom and sibs were destroyed. He’s so big and so heavy now she can no longer lug him around so she sits with him across her lap and they talk to each other. So help me gawd, she talks, he answers with soft mews! He’s certainly not purebred but he is gorgeous, every tattered inch of him.

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