Update on the 2013 AVMA Guidelines for Euthanasia

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has released the “AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition” as an update to the 2007 Guidelines on Euthanasia.  This is the 8th edition (1963, 1972, 1978, 1986, 1993, 2000, 2007 and 2013) that the AVMA has published, and builds upon previous editions.  Of note, there is a new schema for the most up-to-date version, as detailed on the AVMA website, versioning of the Guidelines will be tracked, with the most current version being Version 2013.0.1 (see changes).

The AVMA Panel on Euthanasia (POE) that developed the Guidelines is a “result of more than 3 years of deliberation by more than 60 individuals, including veterinarians, animal scientists, behaviorists, psychologists, and an animal ethicist.”  Comments were taken from AVMA members and considered.

As the adherence to these Guidelines is critical to the IACUC animal protocol review process, OLAW has provided guidance, stating that OLAW “encourages PHS-Assured institutions to begin using the 2013 Guidelines when reviewing research projects as soon as possible, and expects full implementation after September 1, 2013.  Previously approved projects undergoing continuing review according to PHS Policy, IV.C.5., which requires a complete de novo review at least once every 3 years, must be reviewed using the 2013 Guidelines after September 1, 2013.”  In addition, the NIH published a Federal Register Notice (March 22nd) on Implementation of the Updated American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals (FR Doc# 2013-06661, NOT-OD-13-048).:

“This Notice provides guidance to Public Health Service awardee institutions on implementation of the 2013 Edition of the Guidelines (PDF). The NIH is seeking input from the public on any concerns they may have regarding the updated Guidelines. Public comments must be submitted electronically on or before May 31, 2013.”

Regarding substantive changes, the AVMA has published an Executive Summary to describe modifications from the 2007 edition.   They are listed here:


In addition to the sections describing various techniques in detail (inhaled, noninhaled and physical methods), specific advice is provided for the euthanasia of companion animals, laboratory animals, animals farmed for food and fiber, equids, avians, fish and aquatic invertebrates, and captive and free-ranging nondomestic animals. Recommendations relating to a particular species may be located within the guidelines by using Appendix 1 “Agents and methods of euthanasia by species,” which references the section(s) within the document that should be consulted. New figures and tables provide helpful guidance in the application of specific techniques.


Information has been included about key concerns outside of the immediate performance of a euthanasia technique (i.e., euthanasia is approached as a process, rather than as an isolated event). This includes advice on ethical decision making, consideration of the various environments in which euthanasia is conducted, handling of animals, confirmation of death, and disposal of animal remains. Collection of animals for scientific investigations, euthanasia of injured or diseased wildlife, and handling of animals under field conditions are also addressed.


One area identified as needing additional guidance upon review of the last iteration of the Guidelines was depopulation (ie, the rapid destruction of large numbers of animals in response to emergencies, such as the control of catastrophic infectious diseases or exigent situations caused by natural disasters). Depopulation may employ euthanasia techniques, but not all depopulation methods meet the criteria for euthanasia. Because they do not always meet the criteria for euthanasia, these techniques will be addressed in a separate document, the AVMA Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals.

Similarly, because methods used for slaughter may also not meet all the conditions necessary to be deemed euthanasia, these techniques will be addressed by a third document, the AVMA Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals.


Techniques are categorized as ‘acceptable’, ‘acceptable with conditions’, or ‘unacceptable’. The replacement of ‘conditionally acceptable’ with ‘acceptable with conditions’ is intended to signal that ‘acceptable’ and ‘acceptable with conditions’ techniques are to be considered equally satisfactory so long as the stated conditions are met.

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