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  • Deborah A Allen

More than an animal


Are you an organ donor? I am have been for as long as I can remember in fact, I was so young I had to get my mum to counter sign the form giving me permission to carry the donor card.

Its never worried me about doctors taking bits of me once I’m dead I suppose not having a religion helps that way I don’t have any dreams of some great celestial hand sweeping down and carrying me off to heaven or Valhalla or paradise. I know I’m going to get cremated, chucked in a bucket and spread in a field with the ashes of my dogs (that’s what I want) so if anyone has any use for my organs, they are welcome to them.

My husband and daughter are both organ donors too and thinking about it I don’t have a problem with them carrying a donor card, its up to them what they do.

However, while I was at the vet last week picking up some allergy medication for my dog, I saw the latest free pet magazine and picked up a copy. Among the articles was one about organ donation. I assumed they meant from pet to pet which surprised me because I didn’t think that was possible but as I read, I found out that although it is possible this wasn’t exactly what the article was about.

If you think about it its logical, we have all heard of Burke and Hare who stole the bodies of the recently dead for doctors to practice their skills and when the supply of corpses dried up they turned to murder and were only caught after 16 victims had died at their hands.

This led in part to the Anatomy Act 1832 which allowed corpses to be used by doctors for anatomy teaching and practice.

These days who in their right mind would allow a doctor to operate on them if that doctor had never performed the operation before, never practised , never honed their skill somewhere else?

So how do we assume that vets learn their trade? By learning on dead animals of course.

Normally the animal corpses they use are those of specially bred and euthanised i.e.; killed, cats, dogs and other small pet animals reared with the sole purpose of being killed and used for anatomical study.

What I didn’t ever realise was the strict guidelines about what animals are or are not fit for purpose, the animal can't be over 30 kg in weight because of health and safety regulations, the animal must be intact and must not have any large tumours in the stomach or chest cavity they also cannot have died as a result of an infectious disease because of the risks to the vets.

This is where donation comes in, there is a possibility for people to donate their pet to this cause and in doing so saving the life of a dog cat or other animal who was bred to die.

Logically it makes sense, my deceased pet could save the life of another animal they could prevent an unnecessary death and help train a vet who would go on to save countless other lives and prevent suffering in thousands of animals. Yet I just know I couldn’t do it.

I could not give up my dog to this cause, I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone ‘practising’ on my beloved boys. I know dead is dead, I know we are just worm food but allowing anyone to use my dog like this is unthinkable to me.

But hey I’m a crazy dog lady, maybe its just me. So, I asked my daughter. Not straight out, I tried to be a bit tactful, so I said, ‘have you seen this article about animal donation’? ‘It’s very interesting ‘and handed her the magazine.

She gave it a quick read and I could tell what was coming from the look on her face, ‘no one is getting their hands on my kitty ‘she said.

I asked why and her answer really came down to the same feeling as mine. She said it was because while we are making a conscious decision about what happens with our own body, they would not have been able to make that choice and we can’t ask them.

Its all a really messed up tangle of emotion because I am a meat eater although, I do respect the animals that die to put food on my plate I realise that those animals have been bred to die in order to provide my food, yet I can cope with that.

The knowledge that ‘pet ‘animals used in anatomical study have been bred to die is a harder idea to cope with.

But the idea of surrendering my dead dog to save any of them just feels unthinkable.

I don’t know what it is about our pets, but they cease to be ‘animal’ and become family, a family member to be protected and cherished and looked after, even after death.

Of course, if you think you could bear to surrender your pet you would be saving a life and you would be a lot more courageous than I am….


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