Guidelines and laws when euthanizing animals

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

"The term euthanasia literally means good death," said Vetcare's Dr. Kevin Reed.

Guidelines in the American Veterinary Medical Association detail acceptable and non acceptable ways to euthanize different animal species.

"The goal behind any of these methods is to ensure that the animal has a very quick and painless end to its life," said Dr. Reed.

Dr. Reed says the most common method used with companion animals like dogs or cats is an injection of an agent that immediately anesthetizes the dog or cat and stops vital activity in the brain or heart.  According to the AVMA, the penetrating captive bolt is also an acceptable method for horses and swine for example, and conditionally acceptable in other appropriate species.  A gunshot is also a conditionally acceptable method of euthanasia in dogs, according to the AVMA.  That means that if there's no other available method to use,  then that could be used.

Some concerns with a gunshot include it may be dangerous to personnel, it is aesthetically unpleasant, under field condition, it may be difficult to hit the vital target area, and brain tissue may not be able to be examined for evidence of rabies infection or chronic wasting disease when the head is targeted.

The AVMA list methods not acceptable when euthanizing dogs including drowning, using non-approved euthanizing agents, hypothermia, and decompression chambers. Not only are decompression chambers not acceptable euthanizing methods according to the AVMA, using them is also against Arkansas law.

The law defines euthanasia as the humane killing of an animal accomplished by a method that utilizes anesthesia produced by an agent that causes painless loss of consciousness and subsequent death, and administered by a licensed veterinarian or a euthanasia technician licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration and certified by the Department of  Health.

As you see, other than decompression chambers,  the law does not specify which agents can be used to cause death.

Under Missouri law, decompression chambers are prohibited, and firearms are allowed in an emergency situation.

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