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Euthanasia
Prepared by Jon Sprague

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AVMA Techniques

  • General Note:

    • Euthanizing animals should always be done using techniques that maximize the safety of staff and minimize the suffering of animals. It is important to consider methods, detail BMPs, and train staff BEFORE the need arises.

  • AVMA approved techniques for cat euthanasia:

    • Firearm or captive bolt.

    • Injected barbiturates and barbiturate derivatives.*

    • Inhaled anesthetics, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide (only in institutional setting with appropriate equipment).*

  • AVMA approved techniques for rodent and mongoose euthanasia:

    • Cervical dislocation and decapitation.

    • Blunt force trauma.

    • Injected barbiturates and barbiturate derivatives*

    • Inhaled anesthetics, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide (only in institutional setting with appropriate equipment). *

  • AVMA unacceptable methods:

    • Household chemicals and pesticides are not considered acceptable.

    • Hypothermia and drowning are not considered acceptable. (Strictly speaking, rodents can be frozen as a method of euthanasia, but liquid nitrogen is required to do so quickly enough to be considered humane.)

    • Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and most other inhalants are only considered acceptable in institutional settings with proper equipment and does NOT include use of vehicle exhaust as an asphyxiant source.

Firearms

  • Safety consideration:

    • Firearms are inherently dangerous, and require extensive safety training. Failure to train staff and ensure safety can have tragic consequences.

    • Always follow the 4 rules of firearm safety. 1) assume every firearm is loaded, 2) never point the firearm at something that you’re not willing to kill, 3) keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, and 4) be sure of the target and what’s behind.

  • Legal considerations:

    • Gun laws in Hawaii are very strict about where, when, and how firearms should be stored, transported, and discharged. Failure to follow state and federal firearm laws can have significant legal consequences. For instance, possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle is a class B felony in Hawaii.

  • Advantages:

    • Causes rapid death with minimal suffering when used appropriately.

    • Relatively easy to implement under various field conditions.

  • Disadvantages:

    • Requires well trained staff and maintained equipment.

    • May be aesthetically displeasing.

    • May be less safe for staff compared to other methods.

    • May be challenging to get approval to use depending on organizational policy.

  • Methodology:

    • AVMA recommends 300 ft-lbs bullet energy for animals up to 400 lbs; Ensure caliber of firearm is sufficient for size of animal and the skill of the shooter.

    • If an animal is in a live trap, try to restrain it to a smaller area within the trap to minimize movement and increase chance of 1-shot euthanization.

    • For cats, aim for the the intersection shown below. Loss of consciousness should be rapid.

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Cervical Dislocation

  • Safety considerations:

    • Consider wearing leather and/or nitrile gloves while handling animals, however, leather gloves may not provide enough dexterity for the actual procedure.

  • Advantages:

    • Causes rapid death with minimal suffering when conducted appropriately.

    • Does not require chemicals or firearm.

  • Disadvantages:

    • May be aesthetically displeasing.

    • Requires handling the animal prior to death.

    • Requires staff master skills to ensure quick loss of consciousness. • Is not recommended for use on animals over 200 g.

  • Methodology:

    • Generally, for mice and rats, the thumb and forefinger are placed on either side of the skull.

    •  With the other hand, the base of the tail or hind limbs are pulled backwards separating cervical vertebrae. Loss of consciousness should be rapid.

Blunt Force Trauma

  • Safety considerations:

    • Consider wearing leather and/or nitrile gloves while handling animals.

  • Advantages:

    • Causes rapid death with minimal suffering when conducted appropriately.

    • Does not require chemicals or firearm.

  • Disadvantages:

    • May be aesthetically displeasing and challenging for staff using the technique.

    • Requires staff master skills to ensure quick loss of consciousness.

    • Is only recommended for animals with thin craniums.

  • Methodology: 

    • Restrain the animal to the maximum extent practical.

    • Administer a sharp blow to the skull. If done correctly, the animal should lose consciousness rapidly.

Morality

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AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanization of Animals, 2013

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