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Janelle Dixon, Chair, Animal Humane Society

Lisa LaFontaine, Vice Chair, Washington Humane Society

Anne Reed, Secretary, Wisconsin Humane Society

Jodi Lytle Buckman, Treasurer, ASPCA

Sharon Harmon, Past Chair, Oregon Humane Society

Madeline Bernstein, SPCA-Los Angeles

Sharon Harvey, Cleveland Animal Protective League

Mary Jarvis, Washington Animal Rescue League

Betsy McFarland, Humane Society of the United States

Shelly Moore, Humane Society of Charlotte

Gary Tiscornia, SPCA for Monterey County

Dr. Gary Weitzman, San Diego Humane Society & SPCA

Leslie Yoder, CO Federation of Animal Welfare Agencies


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Euthanasia Best Practice for Companion Animals

Approved by the Board 7/14/10

The Euthanasia Best Practice for Companion Animals was developed to provide organizations with information to ensure that when performed, euthanasia is done in the most humane way.

The information below relates to medical, environmental and personnel considerations and is not meant to be a comprehensive guide.We suggest referring to other resources, such as the Euthanasia Training Manual developed and published by HSUS.Much of the foundational medical information in the Euthanasia Best Practice for Companion Animals was developed by and provided courtesy of Doug Fakkema.

Best Practice:

All employees who will perform euthanasia or participate in the euthanasia process must be properly trained.Training should consist of classroom instruction and practical hands on experience.

  • There must always be two people performing the euthanasia procedure for the comfort of the animal and the safety of the individuals.
  • Procedures should conform to State and Federal regulations pertaining to the handling of controlled substances.
  • Live animals should never be able to witness euthanasia taking place.
  • Pre-sedation or pre-anesthesia should always be an option or consideration to be used for the welfare of the animal.This should be considered and used at the discretion of veterinarian or vet technician performing euthanasia in situations that may include but are not limited to the following circumstances (fractious temperament, physical condition, …)
  • Intravenous (IV) injections are the preferred method for dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens, including pregnant animals.
  • Intraperitoneal (IP) injections on cats and kittens should be used as a last resort and it is strongly recommended that the animal be pre-anesthetized or pre-sedated.
  • Intracardiac (IC) injections of deeply anesthetized (not sedated or tranquilized) animals where IV or IP cannot be gently administered due to the animal's temperament or physical condition.This should be used as a last resort.
  • Gentle and compassionate handling of all friendly and socialized animals.
  • Use of muzzles, restraint gate and control poles on dogs only and only where a specific animal warrants such restraint.
  • Cats gently held and/or scruffed unless greater restraint is warranted.
  • Use of purpose-designed cat nets and/or squeeze cage to restrain feral or fractious cats or small mammals.
  • Sodium pentobarbital dose at 1 ml per ten pounds for IV and IC.3 ml per ten pounds for IP administration.Dosage should be adjusted for pregnant, heavily muscled or circulatory compromised animals.
  • Always have backup drugs (sedation and euthanasia) available to respond to unanticipated circumstances or emergencies.
  • Death must be verified on every animal.Use of the stethoscope technique is the preferred method.Additional methods of observation include rigor mortis, eye reflex and gum coloration.Cardiac puncture technique should be used only if unable to confirm through all previously mentioned methods.
  • Use needles only once.
  • Rinse syringes multiple times prior to reuse.

Unacceptable Practices:

  • IC injections on non-anesthetized animals.
  • IC injections on sedated or tranquilized animals.
  • Gas chamber use to administer a lethal dose of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide.
  • Any other non-injectable method of performing euthanasia.
  • Over handling or over restraining animals, including routine use of control poles, muzzles or restraint devices.
  • Use of control poles on cats.
  • Intramuscular (IM) or subcutaneous (SC) administration of sodium pentobarbital.
  • Flat dose of 1 ml per ten pounds for all routes of administration or less than 3 ml per ten pounds for IP administration.
  • Intrahepatic injections of sodium pentobarbital.
  • Reuse of needles.
  • Reuse of syringes without rinsing/cleaning.
  • Not verifying death using stethoscope technique, methods of observation including rigor mortis, eye reflex and gum coloration.Use of cardiac puncture as the primary method of verification.

"There is a strong voice for animals when we all speak as one"(c)

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