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IACUC Guideline 15 - The Use of Cervical Dislocation as a Method of Euthanasia for Poultry

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Acceptable euthanasia initially depresses the central nervous system to ensure insensitivity to pain. Cervical dislocation causes rapid unconsciousness. It can be rapidly accomplished, and does not chemically contaminate tissue. Manual cervical dislocation is a humane technique for euthanasia of poultry and other small birds when performed by individuals with a demonstrated high degree of technical proficiency 1. It is acceptable with birds small enough that the procedure may be carried out quickly and completely 2. The following guides are to ensure that this method of euthanasia will be accomplished in the most humane and aesthetically acceptable manner possible.

  1. Cervical dislocation as a method of euthanasia must be covered by an animal use protocol and approved by the IACUC. Cervical dislocation must also be scientifically justified if used as a method of euthanasia in any animal care and use protocol.
  2. In a production setting, cervical dislocation is an acceptable method of euthanasia for sick birds or in the case of an emergency.
  3. Cervical dislocation will only be performed in a designated location out of view of people not directly familiar with the procedure.
  4. In order to receive approval to use cervical dislocation as the method of euthanasia, individuals (name and department) responsible for performing this procedure must be identified. They will be required to provide written documentation and a demonstration of proficiency, which will be kept on file with the approved protocol. Names of individuals currently approved to perform and train others in this technique are on file at ORP. For a person to be added to this list, one of the listed individuals must submit to ORP a written recommendation.
  5. Inexperienced persons must receive training before performing this procedure. The principal or co-investigator must provide written documentation of training.
  6. Cervical dislocation should be carried out near the head area causing dislocation of the neck vertebrae from the cranium to damage the lower brain region leading to rapid unconsciousness. This is achieved most humanely by using a stretching motion to cause severance of the brain from the spinal cord and carotid arteries 3.
  7. Manual cervical dislocation can be accomplished humanely and effectively for small or medium birds. Non-penetrating captive bolt or cervical dislocation would be preferred for larger chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks; if those methods are not available, Burdizzo forceps can also be used. Large birds can also be euthanized using inhaled anesthetics,CO2, barbiturate overdose, stunning followed by exsanguination, or decapitation 1-5. If a large number of birds are to be euthanized, cervical dislocation is not appropriate because those performing the procedure can become fatigued making the technique less effective. Either inhaled anethetics or non-penetrating captive bolt should then be used depending on the size of the bird.


  1. 2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia (2001) JAVMA 218:5.
  2. "Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural Research and Teaching," (1999) First revised edition. Federation of Animal Science Societies, Savoy, IL.
  3. "Euthanasia of Poultry - Considerations for Producers, Transporters, and Veterinarians." UC Davis Center for Animal Welfare.
  4. Jordan, F. et al. Poultry Diseases (2001) Fifth Edition. WB Saunders, London, England, pg. 17.
  5. "Recognition and Alleviation of Pain and Distress in Laboratory Animals," (1992) Institute for Laboratory Animal Research. Pg. 115.
  • Last Approved: Jan 11, 2016
  • Last Revised: Apr 21, 2015