November 15, 2011

Executive Board

 AVMA board approves Panel on Euthanasia report

Updated guidelines cover more species and methods

Posted Oct. 26, 2011  

The AVMA Executive Board approved the content of the 2011 update of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia during a Sept. 27 conference call.

The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia are recognized by government regulators and the animal care and use community as the gold standard for acceptable procedures and agents for euthanizing a broad spectrum of animal species.

At press time in October, the guidelines were undergoing final edits and were to be published in an upcoming issue of JAVMA as well as on the AVMA website.

This latest edition of the AVMA euthanasia guidelines, the eighth since they were first published in 1963, is approximately three times the length of the previous, 2007 report. The number of animal species covered is more extensive, with both vertebrate and invertebrate species included.

The guidelines also feature a flowchart to aid veterinarians in making ethical decisions regarding euthanasia.

The effort to update the guidelines began in earnest in 2009 with the formation of 11 working groups consisting of more than 70 representatives from veterinary medicine, animal science, animal control, animal agriculture, wildlife, and other relevant fields. Each group was responsible for identifying and assessing research pertaining to technique- or species-specific topics. Also included on the panel for the first time was a schooled ethicist.

The working groups are a departure from earlier formats. For example, just more than a dozen individuals oversaw the revisions resulting in the 2000 version of the guidelines.

During the Executive Board conference call, Dr. Steven L. Leary, chair of the current AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, noted how the groups allowed the panel to compile a credible and comprehensive report. And, as a living document, the guidelines can be updated as new data become available, Dr. Leary added.

Before submitting its report to the AVMA board, the panel took into account more than 300 AVMA member comments elicited by a draft version of the guidelines posted online.

Unlike previous editions of the euthanasia guidelines, humane slaughter and depopulation are not covered in this latest report. The AVMA will address those two topics in separate guidance documents likely due in 2012-2013.

A table of contents, glossary, and index are intended to make the euthanasia guidelines more reader friendly.