The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) strongly supports the practice of euthanasia of companion animals in practice when a sufficiently good quality of life cannot be maintained.
The BSAVA does not support perpetuation of an animal’s life when the expectation that it will suffer outweighs a small probability that treatment may provide benefits.
The BSAVA supports the autonomy of the practitioner to refuse euthanasia for mere convenience when there are alternative options such as the owner signing the animal over to the veterinary surgeon or a rescue organisation. However, the decision to euthanise the animal should be appropriate to the actual situation and realistic prospects of the animal. This may include the limitations of the owner to provide further treatment, and the limitations of rescue centres to rehome animals.
The BSAVA recommends that euthanasia, the act of producing painless death, is best performed by the injection of an overdose of a barbiturate solution, under the direction of a veterinary surgeon. When dealing with a frightened or aggressive animal, a pre-medicant may be used before injecting the barbiturate. Other methods are not recommended except in emergency situations where euthanasia on the grounds of animal welfare is necessary.
The act of euthanasia should aim to avoid suffering, including pain, while also achieving a timely death without undue delay.
Advice on how to euthanise a reptile is provided in Companion, February 2012.
Considerations regarding euthanasia or treatment of wildlife casualties:
Treatment and rehabilitation of wildlife casualties
Webster, J (1994) Animal Welfare: A Cool Eye Towards Eden. Blackwell: Oxford, UK
Yeates, J (2009) Death is a Welfare Issue. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23(3): 229-240. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-009-9199-9
Yeates, J (2010) Ethical aspects of euthanasia of owned animals. In Practice 32: 70-73. https://doi.org/10.1136/inp.c516
Yeates, J (2011) Is ‘a life worth living’ a concept worth having? Animal Welfare 20: 397-406
Yeates J and Main DCJ (2011) Veterinary opinions on refusing euthanasia: Justifications and Philosophical Frameworks. Veterinary Record 168: 263-5. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.c6352
Reviewed by members of BSAVA Scientific Committee (Sarah Caddy, Alexander German, Jeremy Kirk, Caroline Kisielewicz, Lisa Morrow, Ian Self, Melissa Upjohn, James Warland) 2021