AVMA releases new pet euthanasia guidelines

January 16, 2020
Volume 51, Issue 2

The guidelines are intended to support veterinarians in various settings when making decisions regarding ending an animal’s life.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has released an updated version of its Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, according to a press release from the organization. Lauded worldwide as representing best practices for humane euthanasia, the guidelines were first published in 1963 and last updated in 2013.

Shepherded by a host of expert veterinarians and shaped by AVMA member input, the 121-page document offers “science-based and practically sound guidance for relieving the suffering and pain of animals to be euthanized,” according to the release.

Specifically, the guidelines cover euthanasia for companion animals, lab animals, farm animals, equids, birds, fish and aquatic invertebrates, and zoologic and free-ranging nondomestic animals. According to the release, information is included about “animals’ physiologic and behavioral responses to euthanasia, euthanasia’s effects on those performing and observing it, and the feasibility and impacts of various euthanasia approaches.”

Significant updates, according to the guidelines, include the following: “...methods, techniques, and agents of euthanasia have been updated and detailed descriptions have been included to assist veterinarians in applying their professional judgment. Species-specific sections have been expanded or added to include more guidance for terrestrial and aquatic species kept for a variety of purposes and under different conditions. Where possible, appropriate flowcharts, illustrations, tables, and appendices have been used to clarify recommendations.”

The guidelines are part of the AVMA’s Humane Endings policy series, which also includes guidelines for humane animal slaughter and animal depopulation.

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