Jump to content
Ornithology Exchange
Ellen Paul

New euthanasia guidelines approved; will be published soon

Recommended Posts

This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 12 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including Ornithology Exchange and the Ornithological Council!

 

The AVMA Board on Oct. 27 approved the new euthanasia guidelines developed by its Panel on Euthanasia.

 

Several aspects of these guidelines are problematic for wildlife biologists. The Ornithological Council and the American Society of Mammalogists have tried and continue to try to ameliorate the likely impact of these guidelines on wildlife research.

 

The AVMA press release is here and a background document on the AVMA's position on the use of thoracic compression is here:

 

http://www.avma.org/...ession_bgnd.asp

 

Please contact Ellen Paul if you have questions, or better yet, let's discuss in this forum. That's what the forums are for.

 

http://www.avma.org/...v11/111115b.asp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I shared this announcement with the consulting veterinarian for our center's Animal Care and Use Committee, Dr. Gary Pearson. Gary once worked for us (when we were USFWS) as a wildlife pathologist, but since shifting to private practices he has been a key member of our ACUC committee and deeply committed to animal welfare for our research, which deals largely with birds. He agreed to let me share his comments, below. I share this with you because Gary suggests development of a new device, appropriate for the field, to deal with the issue of euthanasia in small birds and mammals. Would like feedback on this idea.

 

My medical dictionary defines euthanasia as "an easy or painless death." However, a painless death is not necessarily the same as an easy death and increasingly the "or" is being replaced by "and." In addition, humane is defined as "Having feelings and inclinations credible to men; kind, benevolent." Consequently, the standards of euthanasia today generally require not only the minimization of pain but also the minimization of distress and suffering, i.e., fear, anxiety, discomfort, etc.

 

 

Therefore, the most significant statement in the AVMA's "Background: Welfare Implications of Thoracic Compression" is: "The exact cause of death resulting from thoracic compression has not been demonstrated, which is a key datum for assessing the degree of pain and distress experienced by the animals."

 

Without scientific evidence to demonstrate that thoracic compression is, in fact, painless, the presumption that it is humane is without validation. In addition, the presumption that death from thoracic compression is the result of asphyxia necessarily implies that it induces distress. Indeed, the AVMA states that thoracic compression might justify consideration only if the "assertion that death results from cessation of cardiac function [should] be empirically substantiated." The unsated corollary is that thoracic compression does not justify consideration because the assertion that death results from cessation of cardiac function has not been empirically substantiated.

 

Consequently, the AVMA's conclusion that "thoracic compression should not be prohibited where its use is necessary to miminimize animal suffering or is scientifically justified (such as under the oversight of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee)" is unfounded and unwarranted because (1) the AVMA's background statement has just stated that thoracic compression has not been shown to mimimize suffering and to be scientifically justified and (2) without such scientific evidence, there is no way that an IACUC can scientifically justify the use of thoracic compression.

 

Hopefully, the AVMA's background statement will prompt the development of objective scientific information establishing the mechanism of death from thoracic compression and demonstrating conclusively whether its use is or is not acceptable under current humane standards. Until then, the AVMA's conclusion that "In the absence of empirical evidence, thoracic compression cannot be assumed to reliably produce a rapid death or one with minimal suffering and is thus not deemed to be a method of euthanasia at this time" necessarily has to be the standard applied by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees.

 

In the meantime, the issues raised in the AVMA's background statement regarding thoracic compression would appear to warrant further consideration of the development of a small, adjustable, spring-powered captive-bolt device such as we discussed last February.

 

I really do believe that there is a need for a simple, relatively inexpensive, pocket-size, spring operated, captive bolt euthanasia device that could be used by both wildlife biologists and hunters. It could be designed so the force could be adjusted so it could be used to dispatch small mammals (mice to rabbits) and birds (up to geese and turkeys) and perhaps even amphibians, reptiles and fish. The only situation where such a device might not be appropriate would be when it is necessary to preserve the skull intact.

 

Gary Pearson

DVM, Jamestown, ND

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In many situations, there is an appropriate alternative - the use of isoflurane to deeply sedate the animal before using thoracic compression. However, there are also many situations in which it is highly impractical to do so. Field expeditions in remote areas are generally conducted on foot over many weeks, very distant from places where fresh supplies can be stowed/obtained. Therefore, everything must be carried and the amount of gear is restricted. As it happens, these are also situations where an intact skull and skeleton are needed, making it inappropriate to use any device or mechanical means that will deform or damage the skull or skeleton.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In response to Gary's statement that, "Hopefully, the AVMA's background statement will prompt the development of objective scientific information establishing the mechanism of death from thoracic compression and demonstrating conclusively whether its use is or is not acceptable under current humane standards."

 

The Ornithological Council and the American Society of Mammalogists have told the AVMA that we are ready, willing, and able to undertake the research necessary to show that TC is humane. We asked what kind of testing they will accept. They have not responded.

 

It is hard to imagine that it is not at least as humane as suffocation via carbon dioxide, which is actually slower than TC (depending on concentration and fill rate) and while the animal is suffocating, it is of course distressed and suffering some unpleasant effects while still conscious. And yet carbon dioxide is considered conditionally acceptable.

 

Gary also wrote, "Until then, the AVMA's conclusion that "In the absence of empirical evidence, thoracic compression cannot be assumed to reliably produce a rapid death or one with minimal suffering and is thus not deemed to be a method of euthanasia at this time" necessarily has to be the standard applied by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees."

 

Actually, this is not the case. First, the Public Health Service may or may not choose to adopt the new AVMA standards. As doing so would constitute a clear violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, it is possible that they will refrain from doing so. Second, the backgrounder that Gary cites also says, "However, when scientifically justified, the IACUC has and should employ the authority to approve killing techniques not listed as recognized forms of euthanasia. This might include approving thoracic compression where it represents the most humane option available or practicable, or approving the use of drugs with analgesic properties that may not be scheduled drugs....However, thoracic compression should not be prohibited where its use is necessary to minimize animal suffering or is scientifically justified (such as under the oversight of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee)."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...