This paper investigates a prominent ethical issue in veterinary medicine. Veterinarians are often faced with deciding whether or not to comply with a client’s request to euthanize a healthy animal. Pet overpopulation has left veterinarians and owners with very limited alternatives for unwanted or abandoned animals. Shelters have high euthanasia rates, and the likelihood of adoption is usually slim. Facing death on a daily basis causes a significant amount of moral stress and veterinarians are typically ill prepared to face these ethical dilemmas. Typically, only utilitarian and animal rights theories are offered to veterinarians for guidance. In this paper, feminist care ethics is offered as an alternative approach. Care ethics emphasizes concrete contextual considerations and utilizes sympathy and dialogue as tools to foster relationships. Four case studies are used to assess the application of care ethics as a practical guide. The ultimate goal of care ethics is to ensure that every decision is motivated by care for the animal. Care ethics displays practical differences from the utilitarian and rights theories when applied to healthy animal euthanasia scenarios. However, the varying theories can be used in combination because of their fundamental theoretical differences.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2015


Matthew Pianalto

Mentor Department Affiliation

Philosophy and Religion

Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies

Department Name when Degree Awarded

Philosophy and Religion