Animal euthanasia (from the Greek meaning "Good death") is an act of inducing humane death in an animal. Euthanasia methods are designed to cause minimal pain and distress.

When are humane killing & euthanasia used?

The key difference between humane killing and euthanasia is the reason that the animal is being killed.

Humane killing is used:

  • at the end of studies to provide tissues for scientific purposes
  • when animals are no longer used for breeding
  • when stock are not required (eg unsuitable for particular research purpose).

Euthanasia refers to circumstances where:

  • pain, distress or suffering are likely to exceed designated levels and cannot be alleviated promptly (see Section 1.21 of the Code)
  • the health or well-being of the animal is grounds for concern.

In most circumstances, the same method will be used to kill the animal, whichever the reason.

The exception is where animals are killed as part of the experimental protocol; the chosen method should then be compatible with the scientific aims.

Extract from the Code

From the NH&MRC Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, 8th Edition, 2013.

  • 3.3.18 When it is necessary to kill an animal, humane procedures must be used. These procedures must avoid distress, be reliable, and produces rapid loss of consciousness without pain until death occurs. The procedures should also be compatible with the scientific or educational aims.
  • 3.3.19 The procedures must be performed only by persons competent in the methods to be used, or under the direct supervision of a competent person. The appropriate means must be readily at hand.
  • 3.3.20 Animals should be killed in a quiet, clean environment, and is away from other animals where possible. There should be no disposal of the carcass until death is established.
  • 3.3.21 Where practicable, tissue from animals being killed should be shared among investigators and teachers in line with the principle of Reduction (see 2.2.16 (vii)) of the Code.
  • 3.3.22 Dependent neonates of animals being killed must also be killed or provision made for their care.
  • 3.3.23 When fertilised eggs are used, the method of disposal must ensure death of the embryo.