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Editorial: Elderly, sick pets and their owners need HEART help

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At some point, pet owners must say a final goodbye to their animal companions. And while it’s never easy, it shouldn’t be impossible to do with compassion – even if you are stuck on a low, fixed income that barely allows you to get by.

Without the help of Albuquerque Journal followers of UpFront columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger, Zoe, a sweet 18-year-old border collie, could still be suffering from a tumor on one leg and the accumulated effects of old age. Her owner, Kitty Lee, who survives on a monthly $800 Social Security check and has her own health problems, couldn’t pay a veterinarian to euthanize Zoe.

She tried to get help, but the city’s Animal Welfare Department couldn’t/wouldn’t euthanize Zoe unless Lee surrendered her and agreed not to be present to say that final goodbye. With the help of neighbor Sally Smith, they “found places that would spay this old, sick dog for free. But none of them would put her down for free.”

The pair also contacted Animal Humane New Mexico, which will euthanize pets for reduced/no fees based on the owner’s income, and apparently got bad information that Lee would have to surrender Zoe and leave. That’s good, because dropping off a loved canine companion like a bag of trash at the landfill is simply unacceptable.

After Gutierrez-Krueger asked her Facebook followers how they deal with a pet’s last days, reader Lori DeAnda found a veterinarian who performed the euthanasia for free – with Lee holding Zoe.

For a city that adopted a comprehensive and strict animal ordinance, appropriately named HEART (Humane and Ethical Animal Regulations and Treatment), one very important detail was left out – how to help people of limited means humanely give their old and sick pets a peaceful end.

Of course there should be protocols so it’s not “euthanasia on demand,” with pets or litters of kittens and puppies discarded because someone doesn’t want to care for them. But Albuquerque should look a little deeper into its HEART and find a compassionate way for folks like Lee to say a last goodbye to the pets they love.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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