Part 3.9 Euthanasia

This is Part 3.9 of the Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Laboratory Mice, Rats, Guinea Pigs and Rabbits.

This code supplements The Australian Code and provides further guidance and recommendations on the choice of method of euthanasia for the species and age of the animal. The 2001 ANZCCART publication Euthanasia of Animals for Scientific Purposes has been the main source of this information in an effort to ensure that the most suitable and humane methods are adopted in the pursuit of 'best practice'. This reference should be consulted for further guidance on the choice and details of acceptable methods of euthanasia.

Minimum standards for euthanasia:

The general principles of the current edition of The Australian Code must be adopted in the first instance:

  • When it is necessary to kill an animal, humane procedures must be used. These procedures must avoid pain or distress, be reliable and produce rapid loss of consciousness until death occurs. The procedures should also be compatible with the scientific or educational aims.
  • The procedures must be performed only by competent persons approved as competent by AEC or under direct supervision of a competent person.
  • Animals should be killed in a quiet, clean environment, away from other animals where possible. Death must be established before disposal of the carcass.
  • Dependent neonates of animals being killed must also be killed or appropriate provision made for their care.
  • Methods of killing must be appropriate to the developmental stage of the animal. Disposal of fertilised eggs, fetuses and embryos must not occur until death is assured.

The methods listed as 'not acceptable' in Appendix 2 of this code are regarded as either inhumane or associated with practical problems. These methods are not permitted in Victoria.

General recommendations:

The method of euthanasia, whether chemical or physical, must satisfy objective criteria to ensure the procedure is humane and practical, as set out in the AVA policy on euthanasia, namely:

  • Death without signs of panic, pain or distress;
  • Minimum time to loss of consciousness;
  • Reliability and reproducibility;
  • Simple, relatively maintenance-free mechanical equipment;
  • Minimal emotional effects on the observer and operator; and
  • Safety for operators and observers.

The various potentially acceptable methods of euthanasia are tabled in Appendix 2. A method described as 'acceptable but with reservations' is one that fails to meet all the AVA criteria. These methods should be avoided unless the AEC is satisfied regarding scientific justification and the competence of specific personnel to carry them out. An 'acceptable' method satisfies all the AVA criteria and is one of the preferred methods for the particular species.

The species differ in their capacity to experience pain during the various stages of development. For example, guinea pigs are more developed and sentient at birth than rats. Recommended methods of euthanasia for fetal or neonatal animals are covered in the guidelines in Appendix 3.

Page last updated: 14 Jul 2020