Catastrophic accidents and illness affecting animals can happen at any time. This may necessitate that an animal's life be ended humanely. This guide is designed to aid owners, producers, auction market employees, livestock transporters, and law enforce ment officers in making the appropriate decisions regarding the emergency euthanasia of sheep and goats. It is always best to seek assistance from a veterinarian when considering euthanasia. However, in some circumstances a veterinarian may not be read ily available. It will be in the animal's best interest to provide a swift and humane death to prevent or minimize suffering. These guidelines are a summary of the current, best practices known for providing a humane death for sheep and goats in the ab sence of a veterinarian.
Situations that may require emergency euthanasia:
|•||Drugs that directly depress the central nervous system (barbiturates, anesthetics). Overdoses lead to depression of the respiratory centers (the animal stops breathing) and cardiac arrest (the heart stops beating).|
|•||Physical or functional destruction of brain tissue vital for life (e.g., gunshot, penetrating captive bolt gun, and electrocution).|
|•||Methods that induce unconsciousness (stunning with a non-penetrating captive bolt gun) followed by exsanguination (massive blood loss).|
|Euthanasia is defined as "the intentional causing of a painless and easy death to a patient suffering from an incurable or painful disease."|
Webster's II University Dictionary, 1996
|•||Violent or self-destructive thrashing (Is the animal a hazard to itself or others?)|
|•||Evidence of severe shock (animal is unconscious)|
|•||Exposed abdominal organs|
|•||Open fractures of a long bone (leg bones below the shoulder or the hip)|
|Considerations in the Selection of a Euthanasia Method|
The following information should be considered when choosing the appropriate method of euthanasia:
The method should not put anyone at unnecessary risk. Ricochet of a bullet and/or the unpredictability of a falling or thrashing animal should be considered.
All methods of euthanasia should produce a quick and painless death. However, certain environments or animal behaviors may prevent the use of a specific method.
Each method requires a differing amount of restraint. For example, administration of barbiturate or use of a captive bolt gun requires physical contact with the animal, whereas a firearm does not.
The euthanasia method selected must be practical in the emergency situation that currently exists. For example, the necessary equipment must be readily available, and one must realize that barbiturates are only available to licensed veterinarians.
All methods require some degree of skill or training to administer correctly. Animal owners in remote locations, auction market employees, livestock transporters, and law enforcement personnel should be aware of, and appropriately trained in, at least o ne emergency euthanasia method.
Some methods require a larger initial investment (e.g., firearms and penetrating captive bolt gun) but are relatively inexpensive to use thereafter.
Some methods of euthanasia "appear" less objectionable to the untrained eye. Most methods will result in some exaggerated muscular activity (e.g., leg movements and twitching) even when the animal is not experiencing any pain or distress.
|Method||Human Safety||Animal Welfare||Skill||Required Cost||Aesthetics||Considerations|
|Gunshot||Moderate; firearm laws apply||Good||Moderate; correct placement essential||Low; after initial purchase||Fair; some blood and body movement||Distance from animal can be maintained|
|Penetrating Captive Bolt Gun||Good||Good||Moderate; correct placement essential||Low; after initial purchase||Fair; some blood and body movement||Contact with animal required|
|Barbiturate Overdose||Good||Excellent||Moderate; intravenous injections required||High||Good||Drug only available to licensed veterinarian|
|Exsanguination||Fair||Good; animal must already be unconscious||Moderate||Low||Poor; very bloody||Not sole method of euthanasia|
|Electrocution||Moderate to poor||Good; only if specialized equipment is used||Moderate||Low; after initial purchase||Fair; some body movement||Electricity required|
|Polled (hornless) Sheep|
The proper site is either:
(A) on midline, at the highest point of the head, aiming straight down toward the angle of the jaw, or
(B) on midline, in the middle of the forehead, just above the level of the eyes, aiming down along the angle of the neck.
The proper site is either:
(B) on midline, in the middle of the forehead, just above the level of the eyes, aiming down along the angle of the neck, or (C) on midline, just behind the bony ridge between the horns, aimed toward the back of the chin.
|The proper site is:|
(D) on midline, just behind the bony ridge where the horns protrude, aimed toward the back of the chin. Note: Kids (less than 4 months of age) may be shot from the front as for sheep (B).
|Unacceptable Methods of Sheep & Goat Euthanasia|
Ethical and humane standards of euthanasia DO NOT permit the following methods of euthanasia for sheep and goats:
• Manually applied blunt trauma to the head.
• Injection of chemical agents into conscious animals (e.g., disinfectants, certain electrolytes such as KCl, non-anesthetic pharmaceutical agents).
• Air embolism (e.g., the injection of a large amount of air into the circulatory system).
• Electrocution with a 120-volt electrical cord.
|Euthanasia Action PlanBusiness Name: ________________________________|
Veterinarian Name & Phone: ________________________________
Rendering or Disposal Service: ________________________________
Drafted By: _________________________________
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Animal Health and Food Safety Services
Animal Care Program
1220 N Street, Room A-107
Sacramento, CA 95814
Veterinary Medicine Extension
School of Veterinary Medicine
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-8736