Does a vet have authority to euthanize an animal without the owner’s permission?

////Does a vet have authority to euthanize an animal without the owner’s permission?


My pet miniature horse colicked. I called a vet whom I had used once before. She was not able to do a rectal exam on him because he was so small. She told me he needed surgery that would cost $6,000-$10,000, and that even then, his chances of survival were not good. That was the only treatment option she gave, that she could refer him for surgery. She said if he could not have surgery, he needed to be euthanized. I said no to euthanization. She gave him a painkiller, and he was able to relax and sleep. When he woke up, he was doing much better. I called the vet and told her I wanted him to be treated for colic. The vet came back, administered water through a nasogastric tube, and again told me he needed surgery or else would need to be euthanized. He was not in overt pain. I believed he had an intestinal impaction, and I told the vet this. She was unwilling to reconsider her diagnosis, which was made without any diagnostic equipment. She then told me that she could not leave my property unless she euthanized him. I didn't know what to do. I was afraid that she would call the police and tell them that she had made a terminal diagnosis and I was prolonging an animal's suffering. She told me he was not showing signs of pain because he was stoic and that his intestines were dying from being twisted. He was standing quietly, not rolling, not sweating. Fearing that she was going to call the police and have him removed from my care, I let her euthanize him. I was beside myself with grief. I had to know what the cause of his colic was because I believed the vet had been wrong. I did a necropsy of his intestines and right away found the impaction, which was obvious. Had the vet been able to do a rectal exam, it would have been confirmed that he had an impaction. He did not have a twisted intestine and would not have required surgery to recover.

Did the vet have authority to euthanize my pet miniature horse, against my wishes? I wanted to stop her, but she acted as though she was authorized to do so, and if I did not let her, she would call the police or report me to the police.


I am so sorry to hear about your horse. It sounds as if consent was given for the euthanasia so the issue seems to be whether the veterinarian committed malpractice by misdiagnosing the horse and that the malpractice resulted in the horse being euthanized. A civil lawsuit for the loss of the horse may be commenced. While courts do not generally award money for emotional distress when an animal is negligently killed, there was a 2005 Washington case where the court awarded the plaintiff $15,000 for emotional distress and $30,000 for her cat’s intrinsic value after the cat died as a result of being attacked in her yard by a neighbor’s dog. A complaint may also be made to the Washington State Veterinary Board of Governors which is under the auspices of the Department of Health.

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By |2023-07-17T17:05:13-04:00June 24th, 2023|