Animal Welfare: Humane Endings


This page provides information and resources on humane endings for animals.

Seeking Nominations for the Working Groups of the AVMA Panel on Depopulation

Working Groups for the AVMA Panel on Depopulation are being convened and the AVMA is seeking nominations for a diverse group of participants with demonstrable expertise in depopulation techniques and/or their application to one or more species and facility types, as well as an ethicist. Nominations close on May 15th, 2015. Members ot the AVMA Panel on Depopulation will be selected from among those appointed to its Working Groups.


The AVMA Panel on Euthanasia was first convened in 1963 to create guidelines for veterinarians who carry out or oversee the euthanasia of animals. As the guidelines have become increasingly influential, and in some cases recognized as a legal standard, the specificity and scope of the guidelines have broadened.

Now in its 8th edition, the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthansia of Animals: 2013 Edition covers a multitude of species and methods, and includes information about animals' physiologic and behavioral responses to euthanasia, euthanasia's effects on those performing and observing it, and the feasibility and impacts of various euthanasia approaches. More information about the guidelines is available here.

Humane Slaughter

While preparing the 2013 edition of the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, the Panel on Euthanasia determined that euthansia, slaughter, and depopulation are distinct actvities conducted in different environments with correspondingly different considerations for how animals are appropriately handled. As such, humane slaughter and depopulation will now be addressed in separate guidance documents.

A draft of the AVMA Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals was offered for member comment during September through November of 2013. Final content was approved by the Executive Board in January 2014. The guidelines are now underging editorial review and formatting. We anticipate publication of the final document in 2015.


The remaining topic in our series to be addressed via AVMA guidelines is depopulation (i.e., the rapid killing of large numbers of animals that is required by some emergencies, such as the control of catastrophic infectious diseases or exigent situations caused by natural diasters). Depopulation may employ euthanasia techniques, but not all depopulation methods meet the AVMA criteria for euthanasia. Because meeting euthanasia criteria may not be possible under emergency situations - particularly when large numbers of animals or non-typical risks to human health and safety are part of the picture - the Panel on Euthanasia believed separate guidance is needed. Activities are currently underway to convene this Panel and its Working Groups.

The 2014 AVMA Animal Welfare Symposium

On November 3-5, 2014 The AVMA hosted a symposium, "Huma​ne Endings - In Search of Best Practices for Euthanasia, Humane Slaughter and the Depopulation of Animals," at the Westin O'Hare (Rosemont, Illinois). Proceedings for that event, which will include audiovisual footage, are being developed. More information about the event is available on the Symposium webpage.


Legislation and Regulations


The AVMA's Animal Welfare Conversation on LinkedIn