Community-Based Solutions to Managing Companion Animal Populations

Humane euthanasia is an appropriate welfare option for companion animals where significant and/or sustained physical or psychological suffering exists or is anticipated or when public health and/or safety are at risk. In a number of circumstances, humane euthanasia may be the most appropriate option for an individual animal, although that decision should never be taken lightly and alternative options for healthy and behaviourally sound animals should always be considered. Failure to administer euthanasia to an animal in distress is not humane, and may be subject to prosecution contingent upon existing animal welfare legislation.

The practice of euthanizing a large number of animals to prevent population growth (culling) is ineffective under most circumstances. In most situations where culls are used as a primary management tool, the absence of the existing animals simply attracts more animals, which move in and use the available resources. This is commonly referred to as the vacuum effect.

As part of all interventions, including TNR and sheltering facilities, euthanasia will always be required for animals that are suffering from an incurable illness, injury or behavioural problem that prevents them being rehomed safely, or for animals that are not coping with their environment and are suffering poor welfare as a result. In preparation for responding to these situations, every management plan should have an agreed upon and written euthanasia policy. Ultimately, a successful population management program should create a situation where these are the only occasions when euthanasia is required and all healthy animals can be found a good home or environment to live.

Only humane methods of euthanasia should be used and only skilled and knowledgeable people should perform euthanasia.


AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals from (2013).

The welfare basis for euthanasia of dogs and cats and policy development. Retrieved from from (2011).

Euthanasia of Shelter Companion Animals. Retrieved from from (2018).