Many humans treat their companion animals as “fictive kin” and thus want them to be treated with dignity and respect in death and disposal. Limited research exists on how caretakers themselves experience the euthanasia of their companion animal, including how they handle the remains and honor their legacy. This research fills this void by reporting the results of a survey of 567 individuals. Euthanasia was typically performed in the veterinary clinic, with the client remaining 74% of the time. Ninety percent or more of the clients expressed satisfaction with how the veterinarian treated the companion animal and the client. The majority of companion animals were cremated and honored their companion animals in individualized and diverse ways (e.g., shrines, tattoos, and photographs).
The purpose of this research endeavor was to determine the status of dying, death, and bereavement as topics within the curricula of the 28 veterinary medicine schools in the United States. Data were obtained via a mailed questionnaire (100% return rate). Results revealed that over 96% of the schools have offerings related to end-of-life issues, with 80% of students exposed to these offerings. The average number of hours students devote to end-of-life issues is 14.64, about the same as for U.S. medical and baccalaureate nursing schools. Topics covered most often are “euthanasia” and “communication with owners of dying animals.” Veterinary schools over-whelmingly note that dying, death, and bereavement are important topics. It might be helpful to veterinary medicine students if their own feelings regarding dying and death were addressed early in the curriculum and throughout class activities and clinical work. Veterinarians would likely relate better to animal guardians and to nonhuman animals themselves if they felt more comfortable with dying and death.