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The euthanasia of aggressive dogs

02 November 2015
10 mins read
Volume 6 · Issue 9


This article will discuss the ethical issues concerned with the euthanasia of aggressive dogs in practice and where veterinary nurses (VNs) stand within this debate. Ethical theories will be discussed and, specifically, how these relate to the euthanasia of aggressive dogs in practice. The role that VNs play in the euthanasia of these patients and where VNs stand within the law when assisting with the euthanasia of aggressive dogs will also be discussed. Last, the article will look at the Code of professional Conduct for both veterinary surgeons and VNs and how it can be used to gain guidance when dealing with ethical dilemmas.

Ethics is a complicated concept, using the idea of drawing from many viewpoints to decide what is morally right or wrong. The BBC (2014) described ethics to be a set of moral principles guiding identification of what is good for individuals and society as a whole. When thinking about ethics in veterinary practice, the individuals thought of would be the patients and the society would be the clients and the general public. Busch (2008) defined veterinary ethics as that which is concerned with animal rights and welfare and modelled to create a Professional Code of Conduct, guiding professionals in their day to day work.

Although there are no veterinary specific ethical frameworks, there are several frameworks used in human medicine that can be applied to veterinary medicine. Of these frameworks, perhaps the most widely used in veterinary medicine is the ‘four principles of biomedical ethics’ (UK Clinical Ethics Network, 2015a). The four principles include autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice.

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