The Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) compiled the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters to provide research-based guidelines that will help any sheltering operation meet the physical, medical, and behavioral needs of the animals in their care. The ASPCA and ASV presented a series of 1-hour webinars through early 2012, each spotlighting a section of the ASV guidelines.
This webinar covers:
Guidelines for humane euthanasia practices
A review of the Five Freedoms
Ways the Guidelines can be a tool for shelters' self-improvement
A look at what the Guidelines are and what they are not
Photo examples of shelters putting the Guidelines into practice
Top Tips from This Webinar
The most humane euthanasia is provided by intravenous (IV) or intraperitoneal (IP) injections of a sodium pentobarbital solution. IP injections of pure sodium pentobarbital solution (free of additives, which can cause irritation) should only be used for cats, kittens, and small puppies, and the animals should be placed in a quiet, dark, and confined area or else held and monitored to ensure a smooth and humane transition into unconsciousness.
Carbon Monoxide is Unacceptable
Use of carbon monoxide (CO) as a method of euthanasia for shelter dogs and cats is unacceptable due to multiple concerns and hazards:
The high gas flow rates needed to achieve the recommended concentration of 6% can create loud noises that frighten animals.
Multiple animals in the chamber can lead to a haphazard euthanasia experience that's prolonged, painful and ineffective.
CO may produce unacceptable convulsions and muscular spasms before unconsciousness.
Vocalizations and agitation have been observed in animals during the CO method.
CO is extremely hazardous to human health.
Do Not Inject Sodium Pentobarbital in a Non-Vascular Route
Injection of sodium pentobarbital via the subcutaneous, intramuscular, intrarenal, intrathoracic, intrahepatic, and intrapulmonary route are associated with pain and distress. Intracardiac injection is unacceptable unless the animal is unconscious, comatose, or anesthetized. This must be verified by an absence of a blink reflex or toe withdrawal reflex.
After an animal is injected with sodium pentobarbital solution, death must be verified by multiple methods before disposing of the body. Staff should take the same steps with animals who are presumed to be dead when found. You must confirm the absence of all of the following:
Pupillary and corneal reflexes
Toe withdrawal reflex
Pulse, respiration, and heartbeat
Offer Support for Staff
In addition to making sure staff are trained properly to perform and assist with euthanasia and periodically retraining and recertifying them, shelters should offer support services for staff to aid them in dealing with compassion fatigue, depression, or other reactions to euthanasia. These services should be made available to all staff, not just those who have hands-on experience with the euthanasia process.
We've packaged the guidelines into a free resource, Shelter Care Checklists: Putting ASV Guidelines Into Action, and we invite you to use this set of easily understandable and actionable checklists in your shelter.
An internationally renowned shelter medicine expert, Dr. Miller has worked at the ASPCA for more than 35 years. She is an adjunct assistant professor in shelter medicine at Cornell University and a fellow at the University of Denver, School of Social Work, and edited the first two textbooks on shelter medicine—Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff and Management of Infectious Disease in Shelters. Dr. Miller is cofounder and past president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and is a past member of the executive board of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
Miranda Spindel, DVM, MS
Dr. Spindel is currently a student advocate and shelter medicine consultant with the Veterinary Information Network, as well as affiliate faculty at the Colorado State University department of clinical sciences. A two-term past president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, she is the former Senior Director of Shelter Medicine at the ASPCA. Dr. Spindel believes that the world within an animal shelter is rich in opportunity for veterinary education and research integrated with improving the lives of animals. Her research interests are canine influenza virus, upper respiratory diseases and infectious disease management.