Comments Sought on AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia

The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia is a highly respected, authoritative document that is used by everyone from the federal government to practicing veterinarians. Euthanasia is the act of inducing humane death in an animal. And it is our responsibility as veterinarians and human beings to ensure that, if an animal’s life is to be taken, it is done with the highest degree of respect, and with an emphasis on making the death as painless and distress free as possible. The AVMA guidelines set criteria for euthanasia, specify appropriate euthanasia methods and agents, and are intended to assist veterinarians in their exercise of professional judgment.

Our guidelines have recently been revised, with input from more than 70 veterinary experts and nonveterinarians who comprise the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, as well as the staff in our Animal Welfare Division. That draft revision is now ready for your input.

We’re inviting you to comment on any or all portions of the document, which is posted on our website. We will be accepting comments through Aug. 1. Your input into the revised draft of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia is a vital part of the review process, and we urge you to take a look and let us know your thoughts. Once all the comments have been gathered, they will be part of the final discussions leading up to publication of a new set of euthanasia guidelines.

5 thoughts on “Comments Sought on AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia

  1. I apologize that this is late — I received a response from one of our IACUC members and thought that I would try to include this for consideration.

    From IACUC member and PI: I have some comments for your consideration. I was intrigued that they have changed their recommendations from “acceptable” to “conditionally acceptable” for both inhaled anesthetics and CO2. What do you think of that?

    The CO2 doesn’t surprise me. However, the inhaled anesthetics part does come as a bit of a surprise. I don’t quite understand the logic behind this switch. As I understand PHS policy and the Guide, they refer to the AVMA guidelines on euthanasia, and say that euthanasia methods have to be consistent with these recommendations unless scientifically justified. Our own UVM policy on euthanasia also states this. I question the logic of moving the inhaled anesthetics from “Acceptible” to “Conditionally Acceptible.” This gives the impression that a scientific justification must be provided if a researcher wants to use inhaled anesthesia as a method of euthanasia. It doesn’t make sense to me. Granted, the induction process with inhaled anesthetics can produce aversive behaviors or escape responses, and this new document does a good job of pointing this out. However, if that means their use should be only conditionally acceptable in euthanasia techniques, that rationale also calls in to question their use for general anesthesia. Let’s say we’re doing a survival surgery on a mouse, and we choose to use isoflurane. (Most lab animal vets have encouraged researchers to use iso or other inhaled agents in the past) We put the mouse in the induction chamber, and the mouse will exhibit aversive beavhiors/escape resonding during the induction process. Why is this OK, but it’s not OK if we plan to euthanize the mouse, rather than do a surgery. Must we now provide scientific justification for why we’re going to use isoflurane for general anesthesia, because the mouse is a species known to show aversion towards iso?

  2. Thank you, doctors, for your interest in the 2011 edition of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia and for your comments. To ensure your thoughts are given due consideration, we ask that you post your comments for review by the members of the Panel via the comment portal established for the draft of the 2011 edition here:, rather than on the AVMA@Work blog.

    Dr. Shaw…As regards the most current edition of the Guidelines. The 2007 edition is the current approved edition of the Guidelines so that is the version posted in the reports section of the website. The 2011 version is posted separately at the link I provided above for comment purposes.

    Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM, MANZCVS
    Director, Animal Welfare Division
    American Veterinary Medical Association

  3. Euthanasia agents which depress nerve cells leading to initial muscle paralysis and which are capable of inducing delirium or excitement should only be used if preceded by administration of a sedative agent which reliably prevents delirium or excitement or which results in loss of consciousness prior to administration of the fatal agent. It is not possible to know how an animal experiencing delirium feels, so practitioners should err on the side of caution and prevent it from happening at all. Further delirium is extremely upsetting to owners who perceive it as pain and distress.

  4. “It has been suggested that, when using physical methods of euthanasia in ectothermic species, cooling to 4 C will decrease metabolism and facilitate handling,” Many of our PIs handling these species have proposed to use cooling prior to physical methods such as pithing or decapitation. I feel that this should be allowed, as it is easier to handle the animals when they are in a quieter state after cooling. Especially since it is combined with a physical method to ensure humane euthanasia.

  5. I am confused as to why the document posted is dated June 2007 given the recent revisions? I want to ensure that we have the most up to date standards.

    Thanks for your clarification,