Model Laws

Humane Euthanasia of Animals


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Purpose

There is a wide disparity among shelters and their methods and application of euthanasia. Problems stemming from inadequate training, insufficient funding, indifference to animal suffering, and failure to recognize the need to change and update procedures, are found everywhere, from small rural shelters to large city facilities. There is an urgent need for a consensus on humane euthanasia of animals.


Sec. 2. Definitions

  • "Animal" means any bird, fish, reptile, or mammal other than man.
  • "Euthanasia" literally means "good death", and is usually interpreted to mean a quick, painless, and humane method of dying.
  • "Euthanasia Agency" means an entity certified by the State for the purpose of animal euthanasia that holds an animal control facility or animal shelter license under the Animal Welfare Act. (d) "Euthanasia Drugs" means substances that are used by a euthanasia agency for the purpose of animal euthanasia.
  • "Veterinary Technician" means a person employed by a euthanasia agency, veterinary agency, or shelter working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian and who is certified by the Department to administer euthanasia drugs to euthanize animals.
  • "Veterinarian" means a person holding the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who is licensed with the State.


Sec. 3. Procedures for Euthanasia

(a) A warm-blooded animal may be euthanized only by administering sodium pentobarbital, a sodium pentobarbital derivative, or a substance or procedure, which acts on the central nervous system and is clinically proven to be humane. When euthanasia is accomplished by adding a lethal solution to water or food, adequate installations shall be provided for feeding and watering which are sufficiently enclosed in order to provide for protection from contamination by feces, uric acid, feathers, and any other debris.


(b) A lethal solution must be administered in the following order of preference:

  1. By intravenous injection by hypodermic needle;
  2. By intraperitoneal injection by hypodermic needle;
  3. By intracardial injection by hypodermic needle (only if the animal is already unconscious or insensitive to pain); or
  4. By solution or powder added to food.

(c) The animal shall be tranquilized with an approved, humane substance before euthanasia is performed.


(d) Euthanasia must be performed by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed or registered veterinary technician under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.


(e) At least two people must be present for administration of an injection, one to hold the animal and one to perform the procedure.


(f) An animal may not be left unattended between the time euthanasia procedures are commenced and the time death occurs, nor may its body be disposed of until death is confirmed by a qualified person.


(g) This section does not apply to an animal held as live food for another animal.


Sec. 4. Prohibited Methods

Succinylcholine chloride, curare, a curariform mixture, a substance which acts as a neuromuscular blocking agent, a chamber which causes a change in body oxygen, or a chamber which uses commercially bottled carbon monoxide gas may not be used on a warm-blooded animal.


Sec. 5. Penalties

Succinylcholine chloride, curare, a curariform mixture, a substance which acts as a neuromuscular blocking agent, a chamber which causes a change in body oxygen, or a chamber which uses commercially bottled carbon monoxide gas may not be used on a warm-blooded animal.


(a) The State Attorney may bring an action to enjoin a violation of this section.


(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in the applicable criminal code.


Additional Commentary

More than 12 million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters annually. On average, only about 1/3 of animals put up for adoption at shelters will actually find homes.


Sodium Pentobarbital is the most acceptable method of euthanizing warm-blooded animals. When injected into a vein, this drug produces rapid unconsciousness and death without the pain and distress that accompany all other methods. This method is the most cost-effective and overall least expensive of all euthanasia techniques (according to the Michigan Humane Society, the cost of lethal injection, materials and labor is $2.88 per animal). It does require adequate staff training because each animal is handled individually. The injection process allows staff to provide personal comfort to each animal in its last moments, which may greatly offset the emotional stress.


Shelters employ a number of other "euthanasia" methods. One common method is the gas chamber. Either carbon monoxide (CO) or carbon dioxide (CO2) is generally used, though some still use nitrogen gas. In some areas, animals are taken outside and disposed of as target practice for law enforcement authorities. For some animals, the gentle touch of a shelter worker during the euthanasia process may be the only real affection they have ever had. The lethal injection technique allows the worker to comfort the animal and experience closure of the death process.


Gas chambers have many limitations which make the method less practical, slower, more dangerous to staff (workers dying of CO poisoning), and ultimately more expensive than lethal injection. Abuse of the chamber is common. In many cases animals are simply shoved into the chamber, the door sealed, the button pushed, and the employee walks away, resulting in a slow, painful death for the animals.


Animals who end their lives in a shelter, humane society, or even city pound, deserve to have the last moments free of pain and discomfort as can be provided by the practice of humane euthanasia.



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