Questions From Readers
Is it wrong to take the life of a very sick or old pet?
Most people find various animals a source of interest and enjoyment. Some domesticated animals make good companions as pets. For example, dogs are known to give unqualified obedience and affection to their masters. Thus, the attachment that people may have for such a pet is understandable, especially a pet that they have had for years.
However, the life span of most pets is not very long. Dogs may live for 10 to 15 years or so, as may cats, depending on the type. In old age, pets may suffer sicknesses and disabilities that can be distressing to their owners, who remember the younger and more active years of these animals. Would it be wrong to put such animals out of their misery, to put them to sleep?
A Christian would want to act in harmony with God’s will when dealing with animals. Cruel treatment of them is certainly against the will of God, for his Word states: “The righteous one is caring for the soul of his domestic animal.” (Proverbs 12:10) However, this does not mean that God views animals in the same way that he does humans. When God created humans, he showed that there was a clear distinction between them and animals. For example, he gave humans the hope of everlasting life, but he never extended this hope to animals. (Romans 6:23; 2 Peter 2:12) Being the Creator, he has the right to designate the proper relationship between humans and animals.
Genesis 1:28 tells us what that relationship is. God said to the first humans: “Have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” Similarly, Psalm 8:6-8 says: “Everything you [God] have put under his [man’s] feet: small cattle and oxen, all of them, and also the beasts of the open field, the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea.”
God made it clear that animals could be properly used and killed by man. For instance, their skin could be used as garments. God also gave permission for humans to eat the meat of animals after the Flood of Noah’s day, supplementing the diet of vegetation they were originally given.—Genesis 3:21; 4:4; 9:3.
This does not authorize the wanton killing of animals for sport. At Genesis 10:9, the Bible describes Nimrod as “a mighty hunter.” But the same verse says that this put him “in opposition to Jehovah.”
Thus, while man has dominion over animals, he should not abuse that authority but use it in harmony with the principles of God’s Word. This might include not letting a pet suffer needlessly because of very old age, severe injury, or terminal illness. In such a case, it is the Christian’s responsibility to decide what to do. If he decides that it would be merciful not to let a pet continue to suffer without any reasonable hope for recovery, then he may choose to have it put to sleep.