Revisions Submitted for Euthanasia Guidelines

December 10, 2009

A team of experts representing the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has submitted comments as part of the review process for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines on Euthanasia.

The comments include recommendations for specific changes that support more humane euthanasia methods across a variety of species and a range of scenarios.

Guidelines Widely Used

The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia are widely used by government agencies, animal-use industries, animal sanctuaries and animal shelters—both nationally and internationally—as an authoritative reference about euthanasia methods.

The HSVMA/HSUS comments include revisions that clarify and fine-tune the document's general commentary to insure that it supports the most humane euthanasia methods. Revisions are recommended to text addressing specific euthanasia methods as well as to appendices, including tables classifying each method as "acceptable," "conditionally acceptable," or "unacceptable" for various species.

The suggested changes made by the HSVMA/HSUS are based on currently-available scientific research and knowledge.

HSVMA and HSUS Weigh In

The HSVMA/HSUS comments, with references, were submitted to Dr. Steven Leary, Chair of the AVMA euthanasia guidelines panel, and Dr. Gail Golab, Director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, for consideration and inclusion in the review process. The process, which began this past summer, involves a team of experts assembled by the AVMA from a variety of disciplines and is expected to be complete by the end of 2010.

Some of the suggested revisions and recommendations to the general commentary include:

  • That the professional responsibility of the veterinarian to monitor the animal being euthanized and to insure that death has occurred be explicitly addressed in the Guidelines.
  • That time-to-unconsciousness (and then death) criteria be applied consistently, across physical and non-physical methods of euthanasia.
  • That the fact that animal shelter and wildlife euthanasia methods are often not overseen by veterinarians be explicitly acknowledged. It was also recommended that it be stated that even those methods listed as acceptable or conditionally acceptable in the Guidelines can become unacceptable in practice when implemented in the shelter environment or for free-ranging wildlife due to inadequate staffing levels, training or equipment.


Read more about suggested recommendations for specific euthanasia methods