Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

Policy No.9906: Euthanasia

Approved by Animal Institute Committee: 10/12/99

Revised: 4/20/2005

Reapproved: 6/15/11

Euthanasia of experimental animals must be performed in a humane manner. The method of euthanasia depends on the species, the requirements of the research (i.e. sample collection) and the ability and training of the person performing the procedure.


Methods of Euthanasia

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has issued guidelines regarding methods of euthanasia for most animal species encountered in the research laboratory. The Institute for Animal Studies (IAS) has produced a list of preferred euthanasia methods based on the AVMA guidelines and on equipment availability and ease of use. Methods which induce rapid unconsciousness with minimal pain or distress prior to death, such as anesthetic overdose or carbon dioxide inhalation in small rodent species, are preferred. Compressed CO2 gas is the only recommended source of CO2. Physical methods such as cervical dislocation or decapitation must be performed under anesthesia unless specifically excepted and scientifically justified in the approved animal use protocol (see also Policy 9903, Cervical dislocation as a Method of Euthanasia). The person performing euthanasia must be trained in the specific method used. The IAS can provide such training if requested.

The person performing euthanasia must ensure that the animal is dead prior to discarding the body. This is particularly important after carbon dioxide euthanasia, since animals which have ceased breathing may subsequently recover consciousness. CO2 from other sources such as dry ice and chemical means are not acceptable. A terminal definitive method of euthanasia such as cervical dislocation, decapitation, or bilateral thoracotomy is recommended after CO2 euthanasia. Neonatal rodents are especially resistant to CO2 asphyxiation. Decapitation of neonatal rodents following loss of consciousness is strongly recommended.


Euthanasia Services of the Institure for Animal Studies

Euthanasia of unwanted experimental animals of any species by the Institute for Animal Studies staff is included as a free service in the per diem charges. Euthanasia may be requested by placing a signed “Animal to be Discarded” tag (purple card) on the animal’s cage, or may be requested in writing, by fax or by email. Mice, rats, or other small rodents may also be left in Ullmann 1008 or Chanin 617 for euthanasia. This service does not include terminal collection of samples; there will be a service charge if samples are to be collected for the investigator.


Housing Conditions of Animals Destined for Euthanasia

Animals destined for euthanasia are to be housed in a humane manner. Animals must have adequate food and water (to last at least 24 hours) and not left suffering from any procedures performed. Whether animals are left in the animal room or placed in Ullmann 1008 or Chanin 617, the usual standards of sanitation, provision of food and water, and numbers of animals per cage MUST be maintained. Animals are not to be left in overcrowded conditions, and must be left with adequate food and water to last for 24 hours. Nursing pups must be left with a lactating female; if a lactating female is not available, the pups must be killed immediately by the investigator’s staff. Extremely ill animals should also be killed by the investigator to minimize animal suffering.

2000 Report of the AVMA Panel of Euthanasia (2000) JVMA vol. 218, No. 5, March 1, 2001.

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