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Question and Answer

Is putting a dog to sleep biblical?


Is putting an elderly pet dog to sleep biblical?


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.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

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The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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