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Compendium May 2009 (Vol 31, No 5)

Reading Room — Guidelines for Euthanasia of Nondomestic Animals

    Title: Guidelines for Euthanasia of Nondomestic Animals

    Editor: Charlotte Kirk Baer

    Publisher: American Association of Zoo Veterinarians

    Year: 2006

    Pages: 111

    In this book, the professional zoologic and wildlife communities have gathered the best procedures for euthanizing nondomestic animals with minimal fear and pain.

    According to the foreword by Bernard E. Rollin, PhD (Department of Philosophy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins), this publication is an outgrowth of the social-ethical approach to wild animal welfare that has emerged over the past few decades. Dr. Rollin cites the "privilege" of maintaining nondomestic animals in captivity, in wildlife reserves, and as research subjects and notes the attendant responsibility of providing them with euthanasia as needed. To this end, the professional zoologic and wildlife communities have gathered in this book the best procedures for euthanizing these animals with minimal fear and pain.

    This book is the result of close collaboration among the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology, the American College of Zoological Medicine, the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians, the Canadian Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians, and the Wildlife Disease Association. These contributors acknowledge a number of limitations with regard to their recommendations, noting that they do not reflect the only acceptable means of euthanasia. Certain methods may not be applicable because of the constraints of managing free-ranging wildlife or because of the need to obtain samples for pathologic analysis and disease control in a population. The authors point out that in some settings, it may not be feasible to meet the high standards of euthanasia for domestic animals but that in all cases, life should be terminated "as humanely and rapidly as possible."

    The first part of the book addresses general concerns, such as criteria for humane euthanasia, physiology, and regulatory issues. The second part comprises the majority of the text, providing taxon-specific recommendations. There are separate chapters on invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, monotremes, marsupials, bats, nonhuman primates, rodents, marine mammals, carnivores, hoofstock, swine, and megavertebrates. Multiple methods are outlined in all cases, including inhaled and injected chemicals and physical approaches. Where applicable, in-the-field recommendations are also cited. Information is summarized in tables for larger animal groups (e.g., invertebrates, fish). The chapters are short and free of undue theoretical discussion and are thus useful for quick reference. The third section of the book summarizes methods of euthanasia for wild and exotic vertebrates, consisting of a master table that presents and classifies methods as recommended, conditionally acceptable, or unacceptable, with concise comments as appropriate.

    This book would be a great asset for any medical professional dealing with nondomestic animals and is designed for ease of use in what will often be an emergency situation. Despite its bare-bones pragmatism, it is guided by philosophical principles and a clear ethical code throughout. As Dr. Rollin notes, this publication represents only "the beginning of an ongoing quest for procedures that mitigate pain and distress and provide for a humane termination of life for species other than those commonly defined as domestic animals."

    Written by Patricia L. Van Horn, a freelance writer in Long Branch, New Jersey.

    To Learn More

    For further information about this book or to order a copy, visit aazv.org.

    Downloadable PDF

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