‘We’re seeing a big issue’: Kane County to consider compassionate euthanasia for pets

Amid a surge in animal health and behavior problems, Kane County may offer low-cost euthanasia services for the first time.

Kane County Animal Control Executive Director Brett Youngsteadt pitched the service at the most recent meeting of the county board’s public health committee. He said euthanasia at a private veterinarian’s office is too often beyond the means of pet owners.

The plan would create a $100 charge for owners seeking a compassionate end for their pets through sedation, lethal injection and cremation. Youngsteadt said a thorough and compassionate vetting process would precede any euthanasia decision, safeguarding against hasty judgments.

An owner would not be allowed to stay with their pet during the process or collect its ashes.

Youngsteadt says his office gets multiple calls every day from residents seeking an affordable way to euthanize a pet. He said many residents purchased pets during the COVID-19 quarantine. Isolated with their human families, some pets never received exposure to a wider world of people and other animals or the training to adapt to bustling society.

Post-pandemic, the animals can’t adjust, Youngsteadt said.

“The animal doesn’t understand socialization, and now there is increased bites,” he said. “We’re seeing a big issue.”

Euthanization at a private veterinarian’s office can cost up to $500, Youngsteadt said.

“It’s a hard enough decision for people to make, and then to find out you don’t have the funds makes it even more difficult for people,” he said. “It’s not something people want to do; it’s something people have to do.”

The proposal brought some committee members to tears. Some worried about animals being put down simply because they have uncaring owners rather than behavioral problems. Youngsteadt emphasized the county would only euthanize animals with significant health or behavior issues.

“Animals will not be euthanized because a husband and wife are getting divorced, and one is mad at the other,” Youngsteadt said. “Believe it or not, we get that kind of call weekly. We have the right to make the outcome decision we think is best for the animal.”

The Schaumburg-based American Veterinary Medical Association publishes guidelines for the euthanasia of animals, including pets. While the association recognizes there a moral disagreements about animal euthanasia, the most recent guidelines say the practice may be appropriate when an animal’s life “no longer has positive value for it or will shortly be overcome by negative states.”

There was no vote taken on the proposal, but Youngsteadt is expected to bring back a formal county ordinance change at the next committee meeting.

Youngsteadt also wants to increase various fees charged by his office. His plan calls for a $5 increase to the rabies vaccine (total cost of $15), hikes to the per-day boarding charges for animals (maximum $50 per day for a non-neutered animal), and the creation of a $50 after-hours pickup fee for animal wardens called into service outside of normal business hours.

Youngsteadt also wants to crack down on pet owners who repeatedly let their animals escape and need animal control’s help in tracking the pets down. Every third or subsequent offense of a stray pet caught by animal control would result in a $50 fee under Youngsteadt’s plan.

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