Penelope Trunk wrote a blog piece a short while ago about dealing with a sick cat. She ended up killing the cat because it got so sick that it required a lifetime diet of very expensive special food and she simply couldn't get that cat in particular the food because she lives on a farm with a bazillion animals including something like 20 cats. The post itself meanders about a bunch but the cat story is the crux of the matter - in particular the audience reaction to the finale where the cat is euthanized. I was pretty blown away by the intense hatred and disapproval that was slung her way over the decision, particularly because she so obviously agonized over it and made attempts to avoid it. There was a plethora of "You are unsuitable to take care of animals, never allow yourself to have a pet again." type comments that were entirely laughable because she obviously has had pets for a long time and runs a damn FARM.
People have to be pretty farm out of touch with the real world to blow up on someone who has a pet that gets a deadly, lifelong illness that can't be treated without extreme financial hardship and decides to euthanize the pet. Preserving life is a laudable goal but we must keep in mind that farms where the people take care of the pets have distinct limits - keeping one sick cat around almost certainly means not keeping 10 other healthy cats around. Also it should be noted that this farm in question is a farm where animals are raised for slaughter... they are killed for no other reason that it is the economical time to do so to reap the greatest reward for handing over their corpses for human consumption. There is something in today's culture in the first world that suggests that pets are different from other animals and deserve different treatment; that we should go to the same extreme lengths to save their lives that we would go to to save a person's life. We continue by and large to kill animals for their fur, hides, meat and other useful bits but once an animal comes into your home the rules suddenly change.
This attitude that people have an obligation to expend extreme amounts of time and resources to preserve the life of a sick pet is new. In the past it was entirely the norm to have household pets that ended up on the dinner table and the idea of going to extremes to keep them around would have been thought quite bizarre. Nowadays we use precious MRI machines to scan pets for the rich (or the not-so-rich but desperate) and often people put pets through extremely expensive and elaborate medical procedures that aren't even available to average people in much of the world. I don't buy into that much. I think that taking good care of pets is important and not causing them undue suffering is necessary but I feel like any time we do things for pets that we deny other people for financial reasons we are going way out of line.
We have a finite amounts of resources available to us and we all accept that people are more important than animals on a one to one basis. We must prioritize and use resources in the best possible fashion, even though that will certainly mean singular, personal suffering to some entity involved. It would be wonderful if every animal in the world could be cared for from cradle to grave but we cannot do that and recognizing that fact is critical to making good decisions.