Guest column: Euthanasia is never the easy way out for WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital

CHARLIE POWELL | Public Information Officer at the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine

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Yesterday, an Evergreen writer penned an opinion piece titled, “Animal euthanasia is the easy way out.” It awkwardly approached how society relates the value of animal life as compared to human life.

The piece began with incorrect and inaccurate information. She referenced a patient suffering rare neurological disease from the highly contagious Equine Herpesvirus Type 1 infection admitted to Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).

The facts are: the horse in question, Maizey, was an 18-year-old mare that was on a very competitive, regional junior barrel racing circuit. She was presented to VTH with rare neurological symptoms from the wild-type virus (always present) and she was immediately placed in isolation in WSU’s hospital. Maizey was provided with optimal supportive care ensuring she was “comfortable and in as little pain as possible,” unlike the writer’s incorrect assertions.

Quickly Maizey could no longer stand, even with mechanical assistance and she became unresponsive to all care rendered. Less than 24 hours after admission, the only humane thing to do was to euthanize her, which we did at the request of the owner. Indeed, her euthanasia was convenient—for her. She was irreversibly suffering.

Horses that go down with severe neurological disease from many different causes have no chance for survival regardless of how much someone cares or how much money they would choose to spend. The sheer weight of large animals quickly results in internal injuries that do not occur in comatose human patients “awaiting a miracle.”

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, as well as all equine specialists, “EHV are viruses that are found in most horses all over the world. Almost all horses have been infected with the virus and have no serious side effects. It is unknown what causes some of the horses to develop the serious neurological forms that may be fatal.”

The neurologic signs that result in horses like Maizey come from an activation of the resident virus already in her body.

Sadly, had the writer only called or asked our faculty, who are experienced equine specialists and who treated and eventually euthanized Maizey, they could have gladly provided accurate information. In the future, we recommend the writer consult the voluminous resources online such as the AAEP about EHV-1, where there exist credible sources on highly contagious and deadly equine disease.

WSU’s veterinary college routinely works with young journalists at WSU and welcomes all opportunities to educate them about the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine and the profession. Euthanasia is always conducted here with the highest ethical concerns; not as “…an easy way out.”