Johnson City Press

Home euthanasia new local option for pet owners

Losing a pet is a traumatic experience, and perhaps even more so when euthanasia becomes the most humane option.

When the time comes to end the suffering of a beloved cat or dog, the dread of taking them to a veterinarian’s office and saying goodbye in a sterile examining room can cause some pet owners to put off the inevitable and prolong the pain. If a dog is large and immobile, the trip may be more than the pet owner can accomplish. Or they may feel the trip would be more painful for their pet than letting nature take its course.

Recognizing these dilemmas and the gap in local services, Bristol veterinarian Dr. Sarah Francis established her Loving Hands Home euthanasia service in November to provide pet owners across the Tri-Cities with a more comforting alternative.

Starting out, Francis believed the greatest demand for the service would come from owners of large dogs they could not carry. Surprisingly, she said, most of her referrals have come from fellow veterinarians with client requests for house calls. “Most vets won’t do it,” she said. “There’s definitely a demand.”

The process is explained at Francis’ website, Advantages include allowing the pet and owner to remain together through the sedation and euthanasia process, another comfort that often isn’t available at an animal clinic because of insurance and liability issues.

“It’s heavy sedation, very smooth, very peaceful and the owner can hold them the whole time,” she said.

When it’s over, Francis’ has stretchers and technicians to help move the pet, either into the owner’s yard for burial or to an Abingdon, Va., funeral home that offers cremation services for pets and will return the ashes to the client’s veterinarian for pickup.

With an understanding of the magnitude of the owner’s loss, Francis always follows up with a booklet on the grieving process and a personal note of sympathy. If wanted, she can also provide either of a couple of special keepsakes, a clay paw print glazed and painted and returned by mail or, if the pet’s hair is long and pretty, a clipping sealed in a decorative bag.

Cost of the services start at $200 and vary according to the size of the pet and the need for transportation. Cremation costs are separate, start at $150 and vary according to the pet owner’s wishes.

The services are laid out in detail at the Loving Hands Home website along with Francis’ professional biography, a release form and requirements, including an unmanageable terminal illness.

“It’s case by case, but most often there’s a consult with their regular vets,” she said. “It’s only for an unmanageable, end-stage disease and not just because (the animal) is old or aggressive, or because (the owners) are moving.

Safety is also an issue, and if euthanasia cannot be done without putting a human at risk, Francis will offer the owner her best advice and referrals to others who may be able to help.

More information is available at the website, at the Loving Hands Home Facebook page, by calling Francis at 742-1422 or emailing