- Guidelines took more than three years to create.
- Update provides "more depth and breadth of expertise."
- Guidelines set euthanasia criteria and specify methods and agents.
THE American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA) last Wednesday published the 2013 edition of its "AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals."
Led by a 13-member panel, more than 60 experts -- including veterinarians, animal scientists, behaviorists, physiologists, psychologists and an ethicist -- deliberated for more than three years to create the 2013 guidelines.
Since the first Panel on Euthanasia was convened 50 years ago, the AVMA guidelines have helped veterinarians protect the welfare of animals by setting criteria for euthanasia and specifying appropriate methods and agents. As the guidelines have become increasingly influential (and, in some cases, recognized as a legal standard), they have increased in specificity and scope, the announcement said.
"As we learn more about animals, their physiology and psychology, it's important to update and sometimes change our approaches to euthanasia to ensure that we continue to protect their welfare as best as possible," Dr. Steven Leary, chair of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, said. "This was the most professionally diverse panel on the euthanasia of animals ever assembled. As a result, the latest update of our euthanasia guidelines offers much more depth and breadth of expertise in the affected species and the environments in which euthanasia is performed."
Specifically, the 2013 guidelines acknowledge euthanasia as a process that involves more than just what happens to an animal at the time of its death. In addition to providing more information about techniques used for euthanasia across a broader range of species, AVMA said this edition includes attention to ethical decision-making, provides detailed information about animals' physiological and behavioral responses to euthanasia, considers euthanasia's effects on those performing and observing it and takes into account the practicality and environmental impacts of various euthanasia approaches.
"Panel members take their responsibility extremely seriously because we recognize that the AVMA guidelines are used by everyone from veterinarians in private practice to caretakers on farms, (to) researchers in biomedical facilities, to law enforcement, to governmental regulators," Leary said.
The first edition of AVMA's authoritative euthanasia guidelines was issued in 1963. With each update, AVMA said the guidelines have reflected knowledge gained through advancements in research and practical experience.
New in the 2013 edition are:
* Euthanasia methods for invertebrates and other lower-order species;
* Advice on humane handling of animals before and during euthanasia;
* Information on collecting animals for scientific investigations, handling injured wild animals and removing animals that are causing property damage or threatening human safety;
* Additional information about confirmation of death and disposal of animal remains, and
* Flowcharts, illustrations, tables and appendices that clarify recommendations.
AVMA emphasized that the new guidelines do not address humane slaughter or depopulation, which will be covered in separate documents that are currently under development.
More information on the guidelines is available at www.avma.org.
AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 84,000 member veterinarians worldwide.