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Unless approved by the IACUC, euthanasia may only be performed using methods listed as acceptable by the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia.

Methods of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the act of killing animals using methods that cause minimal animal pain, distress and anxiety prior to rapid loss of consciousness and death.

Only trained personnel may perform euthanasia. The principal investigator is responsible for ensuring that personnel performing euthanasia have been trained to perform the procedure used. Training in euthanasia procedures is available from ARP veterinarians, veterinary technicians and animal caretakers.

Carcasses should be placed in a plastic bag (available in each facility), labeled, and put in the appropriate animal facility refrigerator or freezer. These animals will be picked up for incineration. Do not place dead animals or animal tissues in a waste receptacle or dumpster.

Selected agents and methods of euthanasia by species

Criteria used for acceptable, acceptable with conditions and unacceptable methods are as follows:

  • Acceptable - those methods that reliably meet the requirements of euthanasia.
  • Acceptable with conditions -Methods that reliably meet the requirements of euthanasia when specified conditions are met. Please consult the AVMA Guidelines for specific information.
  • Unacceptable - those methods deemed inhumane under any conditions or do not meet the requirements for euthanasia.
  • Adjunctive method -A method of assuring death that may be used after an animal has been made unconscious.

Species Acceptable (see AVMA Guidelines for further information and specifications) Acceptable with conditions (see AVMA Guidelines for further information and specifications)
Amphibians As appropriate by species: Injectable barbiturates, dissociative agents and anesthetics, topical buffered MS222, benzocaine hydrochloride As appropriate by species: Inhaled anesthetics (see specifications), CO2,blunt force trauma to head, rapid freezing.
Intravenous barbiturates
Inhaled anesthetics, CO2, cervical dislocation (small birds and poultry), decapitation (small birds), gunshot (free ranging birds)
Deer Intravenous barbiturates (with prior sedation) Gun shot (must demonstrate proficiency)
Fish Immersion in buffered benzocaine or benzocaine hydrochloride, isoflurane, buffered MS222, 2-phenoxyethanol, injected pentobarbital, rapid chilling (research zebrafish)
Eugenol, isoeugenol, clove oil, decapitation/cervical transection/blunt force trauma followed by pithing
Horses Barbiturates  
Rabbits Intravenous barbiturates Inhaled anesthetic overdose, cervical dislocation (< 1kg), penetrating captive bolt
Reptiles As appropriate by species: Injected barbiturates, dissociative agents and anesthetics as specified
As appropriate by species: Inhaled anesthetics as specified, CO2, blunt force trauma to head, rapid freezing for animals < 4 g
Rodents Injected barbiturates and dissociative agent combinations
Inhaled anesthetics, CO2, tribromoethanol, cervical dislocation, decapitation
Ruminants Intravenous barbiturates
 Penetrating captive bolt
Swine-Suckling pigs < 12 lbs Intravenous barbiturates CO2, blow to the head (< 3 weeks of age)
Swine- Nursery pigs < 70 lbs Intravenous barbiturates  CO2, Nonpenetrating captive bolt
Swine- Grow/Finish to Mature pigs Intravenous barbiturates  Penetrating captive bolt, gunshot
Free ranging wildlife Two stage method of euthanasia is preferred: General anesthesia or deep sedation followed by barbiturate overdose. CO2, gunshot

Please consult with an ARP veterinarian for further information or for information on euthanasia in specific species.

The information presented in this website is intended as a resource for Pennsylvania State University research investigators. No guarantee of efficacy or safety is made nor must information obtained from this site be substituted for professional veterinary advice.