Is declining treatment for your pet animal abuse?

I got a call from a reporter the other day with an unusual question. She said that someone had called her and told her that they had taken their dog to a local veterinarian because the dog had a swollen muzzle. The veterinarian diagnosed a cracked tooth and suggested extraction with an estimated cost of $1,700. The pet parent declined treatment at that time and took the dog to another local veterinarian who extracted the tooth for about $400.

While the reporter was interested in the substantial price variation, what she was really calling about was that the first veterinarian’s office contacted San Francisco Animal Care and Control to report the pet parent for abuse.  The pet parent then needed to call animal care and control to “clear her name.” It also turns out that this particular office has developed a reputation for calling in “abuse” when someone declined the recommended treatment.

Now let’s be clear – if a veterinarian thinks that someone has abused an animal I want them to call it right away and do everything they can to not allow the pet to leave their office. No one wants any animal abused ever! That said, I’m not sure that declining treatment should always be equated with abuse. The level of treatment desired, how intrusive the treatment will be on your pet, and, sadly, the amount you can afford to pay for pet care are very personal, difficult things to think about when making treatment decisions.

If you have an elderly pet facing expensive, intrusive surgery that’s not guaranteed to succeed, I don’t think its abuse to make the decision not to proceed.  You need to make a decision based on the quality of life you want for your pet. If you decide to “shop around” for non-emergency veterinary services I don’t think that this rises to abuse.

Now I wasn’t in at the veterinarian’s office when this pet parent was there so I don’t know how the conversation went, but the fact that this clinic has a history of reporting pet parents who decline treatment caused me concern. I certainly hope that this local veterinarian is not threatening pet parents that they will be referred to Animal Care and Control as a way to get parents to agree to treatment that they don’t think is in the best interest of their pet.

What do you think?  Is declining treatment abuse?

Thanks for reading!