Animal Welfare: Humane Endings

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

Featured Topic: Focus on euthanasia, humane slaughter, and depopulation at 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


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 December 2014. 


The remaining topic in our series (for now) 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 art part of the picture - separate guidance is needed.

We are pleased to share that, during the AVMA's November 3-5, 2014 animal welfare symposium, USDA staff confirmed the execution of a cooperative agreement with the AVMA in support of this project. Details of that agreement are still being finalized, but the AVMA anticipates issuing a call for nominations for participants in our Panel on Depopulation in early 2015.


Legislation and Regulations