This post is not for the squeamish. It is upsetting l know because l am still upset and angry and l deal with death every day but this is for me a very personal death.
I was doing an anaesthetic a couple of nights ago when the locum vet came in and asked for advice on how to put a tortoise to sleep. She had one in that needed doing asap and was worried as they are so difficult to deal with.
The owners thought it very funny when they described how they threw it to their dog to play with and how it ripped into it and vomited up the part it had swallowed of the tortoise a few minutes after swallowing it.
The vet is reporting it but l think it may not get prosecuted due to the fact the owners took it to the vet and how do you prove other than they found it funny and admitted to doing it do you prove it was deliberate.
Time has proved me correct they said almost those words, l know certainly the local rspca attitude it is very hard to get them to do anything, the animal collection officers do try but the higher up the tree the less help you get. Playing devils advocate how would you prove it they would deny it but even so it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
I said if she got one of the other nurses to take over my job l would sort it for her and show her how to pith it. She sent in the spare nurse and l went off to look for some tools, a hammer and sharp longish object/s.
There are only about 3 recommended ways to kill a tortoise but only really one works and if you use the others you should always pith them to make sure as they can shunt blood supply from parts of their body and survive long periods anoxia (without oxygen) cutting off the head is not a way as they can survive for a long time l saw article that said up to an hour. The following is actually the recommended BSAVA method adapted*
First the tortoise was given a very big dose of ketamine. Then *placed in a small anaesthetic chamber (plastic tupperware box with pipe into it that the anaesthetic tubing attaches to. He was in this for about 15 minutes to attempt to help relax him. This may or may not have worked due to my comments on surviving without oxygen,and could well just have been the ketamine kicking in but all means to help are utilised.
When l took him out l hated to do it but still had to pull his head out of his shell but he was by now a lot more lax and did not have much resistance. I got the vet to hold his head.
Then the needle was placed on the top of his skull above the brain stem and driven in l then opted for a slightly larger but very sharp dental drill (unused) which l again hit into the brain stem with my makeshift hammer (an orthopaedic tool) several times to totally destroy it.
The feeling is awful as you crunch through bone and feel and hear it splinter knowing it is driving into the brain along with whatever you are using (needle/drill head).
*Although BSAVA just say once the vet who showed me said to do it several times to make sure.
*I then stood for about 20 mins watching for any signs of life and getting others to check as well. With a tortoise or turtle l stand and look really look hard for any signs of life and gently pull limbs to see if any with draw reflex. In this case it means looking at horrendous injuries. Again this is not part of the standard advice but l want to make sure the poor creature is really dead.
Normally we put an animal down with a clean needle and after the owners goodbyes you then go back and take care of it fast as no reason to stop and stare.
You can see the major injury with the ripped off shell, what does not show up is the damage to the internal section of the body. Underneath the shell is puncture wounds. The skirt where the shell flares out from the body is fractured like a wobbly tooth and lifts up in sections. Smaller holes are in the upper shell as well, some can be seen.