The Humane Endings Documents

The AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals were first released in 1963 and have gone through eight revisions culminating in the 2013 edition. To meet the need for scientifically informed advice, and based on a growing body of empirical literature, these guidelines have grown to embrace an increasing number of species and settings.

During the creation of the 2013 edition, the Panel on Euthanasia determined there was a need for two companion documents addressing conditions under which animals might need to be killed humanely, but that may not lend themselves to techniques currently meeting all the criteria described for euthanasia. These are the AVMA Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals and the AVMA Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals. ​​

A draft version of the first-ever AVMA Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals was made available for review and comment by AVMA members in 2017. Once finalized, the guidelines will represent the first detailed guidance the AVMA has provided relating to depopulation, which refers to the large-scale rapid destruction of multiple animals in response to an emergency situation.

Drafted by the AVMA Panel on Depopulation and its working groups, the guidelines address depopulation starting from the point at which a decision to depopulate has been made. Consistent with the AVMA's approach to euthanasia, they reflect the AVMA’s concern for the ethical treatment of animals at all stages of life. The guidelines aim to ensure as much consideration is given to animal welfare as practicable within the constraints of an emergency event, such as a natural disaster, hazardous zoonotic disease outbreak, terrorist activity, or radiological incident. To ensure the best possible animal welfare, the guidelines support advanced planning for possible emergency situations and provide guidance for making decisions during an emergency.