In response to your inquiry regarding euthanasia training sponsored by the Utah Animal Control Officers Association held on June 9, 2021.
When the decision is made that euthanasia is the only option, it is critical to ensure it is performed as humanely as possible. Direct injection of sodium pentobarbital (referred to as euthanasia by injection, or EBI) is the most humane method available because it causes rapid loss of consciousness and an immediate inability to feel pain.
Animal advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, have moved to eliminate other methods of euthanasia in favor of EBI. Proposed legislation includes provisions requiring biennial training and certification for animal control officers, shelter technicians, and all persons who conduct or assist with euthanasia.
As an example, refer to Utah S.B. 237:
11-46-402. Animal shelter euthanasia training — Documentation.
(1) If an animal shelter euthanizes animals, the animal shelter shall:
(a) adopt a policy for euthanasia that mandates procedures that comply with the applicable provisions of this part;
(b) adopt a euthanasia training program; and
(c) require each person who conducts or assists with euthanasia to attend the training program biennially.
(2) A policy and training program described in Subsection (1) shall be reviewed and approved by a veterinarian who is licensed in accordance with Title 58, Chapter 28, Veterinary Practice Act.
(3) The animal shelter shall maintain a record of training dates and who attended.
To meet these provisions and additional requirements established by the Utah Department of Public Licensing, euthanasia training and certification must take place and our animal control officers must participate biennially.
As a city I believe we have a duty to provide the highest quality and standards of training for our staff. This is to include “hands-on” instruction by an approved and licensed veterinarian.
Just as medical students’ study and train with human cadavers, “hands-on” euthanasia training includes animal participation. Participating animals in such trainings are carefully evaluated shelter staff, an independent veterinarian, and even rescue organizations who would have declined to intervene and provide other options. The animals are not adoptable and otherwise fit specific criteria requiring humane euthanasia in accordance with AVMA guidelines.
This was the case with the animals described in your email. After being evaluated and deemed unadoptable by the Humane Society and additional rescue organizations, they were transferred to UACOA where they were also evaluated by an independent veterinarian. They were deemed suitable for euthanasia by that licensed professional for this essential and required training.
I recognize that euthanasia is a sensitive subject for many people. But I know it to be an essential service to provide a community that expects our animal control to prevent unnecessary suffering and what would otherwise be cruel and inhumane situations or conditions.
I join in the statement of the HSUS that:
“The humane euthanasia of an animal requires five basic elements:
3.Technical skills developed through training and experience.
4.Appropriate application of the most state-of-the-art drugs, equipment, and techniques available.
5.Wisdom to know when euthanasia should, and should not, be performed.”
I believe the Utah Animal Control Officers Association is committed to provide training opportunities that bring these five attributes into focus so that those entrusted with the care of sheltered animals have the knowledge, skill, equipment, and insight to serve their needs, even if this means ending their suffering through euthanasia.
No one in the animal care profession wants to perform euthanasia, but the people who take on this emotional and unwelcome task owe it to the animals to do it well. We owe it to the residents of our city to provide compassionate, skilled, and knowledgeable staff capable of providing humane end of life services when required.
Criticism of these animal care professionals, instructing veterinarians, and participating shelters or organizations are counterproductive to our shared goals of limiting the need for euthanasia and providing the best in humane outcomes for animals in our community.
I hope this provides some context and understanding for the essential training held in recently in our community.
Sincerely, UACOA Board