Dear Catholic Exchange:
What is the Church’s position on the euthanasia of pets? My thirteen-year-old dog has cancer, and she has had three surgeries to remove the tumor, which has come back now for the fourth time. The vet refused to do another surgery because he said the tumor would only come back again, probably within a week, and surgery could cause the tumor to spread even more. I was wondering what the Church's position is on the euthanasia of pets, especially when a pet is suffering with no hope of recovery. Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated.
Peace in Christ! Animals are creatures of God and are to be treated humanely. One reads in the lives of such saints as St. Francis, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Philip Neri of the special relationship they had with animals, animals able to sense the love of God—a love that motivated these holy people. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church observes, “God surrounds animals with His providential care. By their mere existence they bless Him and give Him glory.” (Catechism, no. 2416) Catholic moral theology and ecology have always insisted that it is an act of cruelty to abuse an animal, or to make it suffer for no reason whatsoever. The Church has always taught it necessary to educate people, especially children, to acquire the habit of treating animals kindly and gently and to have a certain regard and reverence for them as creatures of God. Certainly Holy Scripture recommends this: “The just man takes care of his beast, but the heart of the wicked is merciless.” (Prov. 12: 10) If an animal is attracted to a person because it somehow senses it will receive attention, care and protection from that person, this surely can be regarded as a grace received from God who takes pleasure in the kindness showed His “dumb” creatures.
The nature of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God prevents us from taking a human life. Animals have a different kind of soul than that of a human person; they are not created in the image and likeness of God. God has given us dominion over and stewardship of animals and the entire created world. Our stewardship of animals requires that in cases such as this we end their suffering by putting them to sleep.
I hope this answers your question. If you have further questions on this or would like more information about Catholics United for the Faith, please contact us at 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484). Please keep us in your prayers as we endeavor to “support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.”
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