Veterinarians have found that dogs are not more afraid of death than cats.
But even they aren’t as scared as we might think.
In a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Michelle Jaffe and colleagues found that cats and dogs are equally likely to be euthanised for fear, even if their owners know they are not.
“Most dogs and cats are fearful of being put down, whether or not they are actually afraid of being killed,” Jaffe said in a press release.
“And, unlike most other animals, they are more likely to die of asphyxiation in the case of a cat.”
“What’s really striking about this study is the extent to which we have this widespread misunderstanding of what constitutes a dangerous behavior,” Jaffas team said.
“This misunderstanding is a problem for animal welfare because it means that animals can be euthansized for fear or fear of harm that they cannot or will not respond to.”
The researchers found that while most dogs and animals are very anxious, some dogs were not.
They were more anxious than the average dog, but they were not more fearful than a dog that was not anxious.
When Jaffars team tested dogs, they found that there was a significant difference in their fear level when the owner knew that the dog was not fearful of death, or when the dog had not been put down.
“We also found that, on the whole, the owners of fearful dogs were more likely than owners of non-fearful dogs to put them down for being fearful of dying,” Jafas said.
But, if the owners were not aware of the dog’s fear level, they were still less likely to put the dog down for that reason.
The study did not look at the relationship between the owners’ level of fear and the number of times the dog died.
The researchers said that this could be due to how fearful the owners may be.
“One explanation for this is that owners may have a higher level of self-esteem that allows them to feel that they are better than the dog in terms of fear,” Jafa said.
If owners of a fearful dog did not feel that their dog was really dangerous, that may not lead to more fear in the first place.
And if the dog did seem dangerous, owners could not be sure that the owner had not actually been put to sleep, or that the animal had not become aggressive.
“Our research suggests that if a dog is perceived as a threat, its owner may be more likely at some point to put down the animal for fear,” the researchers said.
The findings come as veterinarians grapple with a growing shortage of available animal cruelty cases.
“Unfortunately, the statistics are not as good as they used to be,” Jasser said.
While the number and nature of the cases has improved in recent years, the number still lags behind the numbers in the animal control community.
“There’s still a lot of concern out there about what’s happening in the industry,” Jafer said.
She said that, when the number is high, some people will take advantage of an animal cruelty investigation to get rid of a dog.
“But it’s not a good solution,” Jafe said.
In fact, a recent study by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Society for American Veterinary Physicians found that the majority of cases were not ever prosecuted.
“The vast majority of people that do bring animal cruelty complaints do not have a conviction in their records,” Jaffer said.
For this reason, veterinarians have a hard time getting convictions for cases that go unreported.
That means there are not enough cases reported to the state.
“It’s a huge problem,” JAFS said.
A growing demand for humane euthanasia is also one of the reasons for a shortage of cases, according to the ASPCA.
The ASPCA also says that veterinarians often get involved in cases that don’t come to the attention of the public.
In recent years the organization has been working with the Department of Justice to educate law enforcement officials about the need to stop animal cruelty, and to increase the availability of evidence that animal cruelty is not a widespread problem.
“If we can educate the public, then we can stop this from happening,” Jauer said.