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Question and Answer

Is putting a dog to sleep biblical?

Question:

Is putting an elderly pet dog to sleep biblical?

Answer:

Thank you for your inquiry. I can sympathize with you. I recently had my twelve-year-old Lab euthanized. I acquired him when he was only a pup. He was a great pet. And I appreciate your question. I think that it is an important question.

To try to answer your question I would first say that we must maintain the biblical distinctions between man and the animal world. Of course scientifically speaking man is an animal, yet biblically speaking man is much more than a mere animal. Man was created in the image of God and with a soul. Animals were not created in God’s image and do not have a soul (Genesis 1). And because of that distinction we have throughout the Scriptures commands to cherish and protect human life. That is why there are case laws in the Old Testament on penalties for the taking of human life. But there are no such laws in regard to the taking of an animal’s life, except in the case of liability to the owner of that animal (Lev. 11; 24:18, 21; Num. 35).

Second: We find in. Genesis (1:26) that mankind is to have authority over all living creatures. The creatures of the earth are for man’s use.

Third: Although man has dominion over all the earth and its creatures, they are a gift of God to mankind and, out of gratitude to God and to his glory, we are to be good stewards of those gifts and are to in a sense respect all of life. We try to provide for them what is best for them in our judgment, even in situations that they cannot understand.

Fourth: Several veterinarians have told me that animals do not feel pain as acutely as we do. Yes, they suffer when they are injured or ill, but their recognition of that pain is not identical with that of humans.

Finally, keep in mind that only human beings have a sense of their mortality. Animals have neither a sense of self-consciousness nor a fear of death. There is (to use the words of Augustine) no “God shaped hole” in their hearts. They have no realization of God or eternity, nor will they stand before God in judgment.

So, in conclusion, I believe that euthanizing your pet is not unbiblical. I hope that this is a help to you.


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