Euthanasia Guidelines from the AAEP: Knowing when you should let go

Euthanasia Guidelines:

In accordance with AVMA’s position on euthanasia of animals, the AAEP accepts that humane euthanasia of unwanted horses or those deemed unfit for adoption is an acceptable procedure once all available alternatives have been explored with the client. A horse should not have to endure conditions of lack of feed or care erosive of the animal’s quality of life. This is in accord with the role of the veterinarian as animal advocate.

The following are guidelines to assist in making humane decisions regarding euthanasia of horses:

• A horse should not have to endure continuous OR unmanageable pain from a condition that is chronic and incurable.

• A horse should not have to endure a medical or surgical condition that has a hopeless chance of survival.

• A horse should not have to remain alive if it has an unmanageable medical condition that renders it a hazard to itself or its handlers.

• A horse should not have to receive continuous analgesic medication for the relief of pain for the rest of its life.

• A horse should not have to endure a lifetime of continuous individual box stall confinement for prevention or relief of unmanageable pain or suffering.

Techniques for Euthanasia – The following techniques for performing euthanasia of horses by properly trained personnel are deemed acceptable:

1. Intravenous administration of an overdose of barbiturates
2. Gunshot to the brain (Shearer JK, Nicoletti P. Humane euthanasia of sick, injured and/or debilitated livestock. University of Florida IFAS Extension) (…)

The image below is an intake photo of an emaciated colt with a gruesome birth defect that made any quality of life impossible many years ago at Heart of Phoenix.

I often think of them and how we acted kindly and let him be at peace without coming up with ways to prolong his life but not the quality of it.

When I hear things like, “He wants to live,” or “he is still willing to be alive,” it usually breaks my heart, as these are human emotions we PUSH onto animals. We forget the human loved ones suffering we’ve known and how they wished from nothing more than dignity in the end and to not suffer.

Please consider these sensible guidelines when thinking of a horse you know that might be questionable life quality and make the right choice for the horse, in spite of human emotion.

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