Opportunity to Comment on New AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines

August 11, 2011

HSVMA encourages veterinary professionals who are also members of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to review and submit comments regarding the new version of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia. The deadline to submit comments on the draft document is September 1, 2011. The document and submission forms can be accessed on the AVMA website.

The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia are widely used by the veterinary profession, the animal sheltering community and a variety of animal use industries both in the United States and abroad to make decisions about euthanasia methods. For this reason, by participating in the review process veterinary professionals have an opportunity to impact how billions of animals are euthanized.

The last time the AVMA amended its euthanasia guidelines was in 2007. The current round of review and revisions began in 2009. At that time a team of experts from the HSVMA and the Humane Society of the United States submitted comments suggesting a variety of changes to the introductory statements as well as to recommendations regarding specific methods and agents of euthanasia and to their status as acceptable, conditionally acceptable or unacceptable. A summary of the comments submitted by the HSVMA/HSUS team in 2009 can be found on the HSVMA website.

HSVMA is currently reviewing the draft document with regard to our previously submitted comments and other outstanding concerns. In our initial review, it appears the AVMA has made improvements to the document. For example, the introductory section now acknowledges the distinction between slaughter, depopulation and euthanasia and indicates separate documents will be developed to provide guidelines for humane slaughter and mass depopulation methods. Also, there is a newly expanded section on aquatic species that acknowledges pain and distress in these animals.

However, there appear to be several areas that need fine-tuning. As an example, there is an inconsistency in the recommendation for equids. In the species-specific information, penetrating captive bolt and gunshots are considered conditionally acceptable methods of euthanasia with an acknowledgement that both should only be used by well-trained personnel. However, in the methods section, penetrating captive bolt is considered acceptable for euthanasia of horses without any reference to such training.

Another example concerns euthanasia methods for piglets. The document lists blunt force trauma as a conditionally acceptable method for killing piglets while at the same time acknowledging that human fatigue can lead to inconsistency when performed on large numbers of animals. The HSVMA/HSUS team considers this method unacceptable since the potential for error is too great due to the fatigue factor and varied skill levels.

HSVMA members are encouraged to review and submit their own comments. The guidelines are broken down into three areas – general considerations, methods of euthanasia and species-specific considerations – and comments must be submitted within detailed sub-sections of these areas. There are currently no appendices (charts) accompanying the document as were included with the current guidelines. The AVMA plans to publish new appendices with the final version of the document.

To review and comment on the draft euthanasia guidelines, visit the AVMA website. You must be a current AVMA member to do so.