Tuesday 25 March 2014

A Crime? Failing to Take Vet's Advice On Euthanising Your Cat

A woman in the UK was prosecuted for declining to take the advice of a veterinarian who had advised her to euthanise her cat, Ziggy, who was in a poor state because of old age. This was a decision about when to euthanise a cat at the end of his life. This ultimately is a decision for the cat's caretaker on the advice of a vet but the buck stops at the cat owner (the cat's caretaker).

A very old cat soon to be euthanised
What is shocking about this case is that the RSPCA decided to prosecute this woman simply because she had a different idea about when to euthanise her elderly cat, Ziggy. The woman's name is Ms Julie Nadian. The veterinarian who advised her to put down her cat worked for the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals.

Although the prosecution was stopped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the lady had all her cats taken from her and they have since been in RSPCA care. She continues to be prosecuted for failing to provide a suitable environment for her pets.

However, the big issue really is that she was prosecuted because she failed to agree to euthanise a very old cat at the time that her veterinarian deemed to be correct. The prosecution was clearly incorrect because it is a personal decision of the cat's owner and it is an emotional decision.

However, it does highlight this very tricky decision because if it is delayed it can cause unnecessary suffering and when you do that to a companion animal, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 you are committing a crime.

The prosecution was misconceived as it happens and the case highlights the overzealous approach of the RSPCA to prosecute people perhaps as a way to publicise its services and to try and take proactive steps to prevent people from mistreating their companion animals by frightening them into believing that they could be prosecuted over day-to-day decisions.

Nobody really knows when it is right to put down a pet due to very old age. A veterinarian will provide a cold, objective and scientific assessment while the cat's owner will also be as objective as possible but his or her decision must be affected by her emotional connection with her companion animal which should and indeed must be in the equation when she makes a decision.

It is also almost impossible even for veterinarian to judge exactly how much discomfort or pain a cat is suffering in old age and if he thinks the cat is suffering he can prescribe medication to ease it. That I argue would have been a better decision.

My conclusion is that no one should ever be prosecuted for making an incorrect decision about when to euthanise her cat due to very advanced old age.

Update:  Having received a lot of detail from Julie, I was able to compose another article, which can be seen here. I'm not sure whether Ziggy is in fact an old cat. That does not matter because the basic principles that I discuss here still apply.


  1. What a terrible situation for this poor lady! I agree that she should have not been prosecuted. They also took her other cats which I find disgusting to a point. Instead of removing her other cats isn't there some sort of agency that could assist her in finding the right environment? True I do not know what the laws are in the U.K. I can only hope that she and her cats are reunited.

  2. Hello. Thanks for commenting. Fortunately, the lady contacted me by e-mail and provided me with her statement, based on which I wrote another article which provides more detail. My conclusion is that the veterinarian or veterinarians that she saw at the outset regarding Ziggy were horrible and when she disagreed with their advice they became malicious in my opinion and this bad beginning kicked off a whole chain reaction of events which put her in the place where she is now. This is quite a shocking story and quite involved but the end result of it is that this lady has suffered an injustice on my reading of what has happened.

    He is a link to the article that I just wrote: http://pictures-of-cats.org/unreasonable-veterinarian-makes-life-hell-for-cats-and-cat-owner.html

    The title actually is quite kind to the veterinarian. I was going to use the word "malicious" but softened it in case someone tried to sue me or something!

  3. I am a volunteer with a small animal charity in England. Over the years, on many occasions, we have been faced with deciding whether to take a vet's advice and have a particular cat/kitten put to sleep. The majority of the time we will go with what the vet has recommended as it has been obvious that the cat was suffering and nothing could be done, but I can think of quite a few occasions when we have decided to carry on with treatment and the cat/kitten has gone on to live a long and healthy life. Thank goodness we had a vet that knew we would not let an animal suffer unnecessarily and did not just go running to the RSPCA because he had not "got his way". Sadly, the RSPCA seem to be losing their way. It would be dreadful if they did not exist as they do a lot of good work but in recent years they seem to be getting far more militant. People who are neglecting their animals because they just cannot be bothered or are cruel should have the book thrown at them, but many people get themselves into a terrible situation and just need some help and advice to sort things out, not be taken to court.

    1. Hello. Thanks for writing a really 1st class comment. You are absolutely right in that some people need the book thrown at them and some people genuinely try and make the correct decision on euthanasia. They do it with honesty and with the cat's life in mind. I believe that this lady is in the 2nd group. She is intelligent and decent in my opinion, based upon what I have read, and therefore her opinion in respect of when to end the life of her cats must be respected by a veterinarian. This veterinarian did not only disrespect this lady's opinion, he or she also branded her a criminal, which I find absolutely shocking.


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