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Clarification of Animal Euthanasia Law in Kentucky

WESTERN KY (11/22/11)—On November 18th, a Humane Society employee and animal euthanasia specialist in McCracken County, Beau Anderson, was arrested on nine counts of violating state and nationwide euthanasia procedure laws.

The charges brought against Mr. Anderson relate to a specific method of euthanasia, which, under laws in the state of Kentucky and most of the United States, requires that the animal involved be unconscious or sedated/unable to feel pain beforehand. To clarify this procedure and the laws pertaining therein, SurfKY News found the specific definitions of the law(s) and statute(s) in violation, as well as additional information on varying types of euthanasia methods used in the US.

Under Section 5 of 201 KAR 16:090, which relates to statue KRS 321.207, Kentucky law states the following:

“Section 5. Approved Methods of Euthanasia. (1) A certified animal euthanasia specialist shall perform euthanasia by means of lethal injection on an animal by use of sodium pentobarbital or sodium pentobarbital with lidocaine, in a manufactured dosage form, whose only indication is euthanizing animals. (2) When using a lethal solution to perform euthanasia on an animal, a certified animal euthanasia specialist shall use the appropriate solution in accordance with the following methods and in the following order of preference:

(a) Intravenous injection by hypodermic needle;
(b) Intraperitoneal injection by hypodermic needle;
(c) Intracardial injection by hypodermic needle, but only on a sedated or unconscious animal;
(d) Solution or powder added to food”

As the McCraken County Sheriff’s Department reported on the arrest last week, Mr. Anderson was found in violation of section “C” of the statue outlined above, which relates to the use of “intracardial injection” by means of a hypodermic needle. In Mr. Anderson’s case, evidence suggests that several animals euthanized by means of this particular method were not unconscious or sedated beforehand.

While successful and/or “humane” euthanasia procedures are defined by painless unconsciousness followed by respiratory and cardiac arrest, and, ultimately, a peaceful death for the animal, it is often times difficult to choose the best procedure or method for a specific situation. In fact, human judgment usually stands at the base of the decision making process.

Interestingly, most preferred euthanasia procedures do not legally require sedation or the use of anesthetics prior to injection. This includes intravenous and/or intraperitoneal (into the peritoneal cavity) injections of sodium pentobarbital (a chemical mixture used in "common" euthanasia methods). However, some form of sedation prior to these procedures is often times encouraged as long as it does not interfere with or counteract the actual euthanasia process.

As the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) states in regard to both procedure types, “The use of pre-euthanasia drugs is not always necessary but should be considered prior to administration of sodium pentobarbital, to ensure safe and humane handling of certain aggressive or frightened animals. Muzzling and other forms of humane restraint may also be used when needed.”

In contrast, the HSUS’s stance, as well Kentucky law, is clearly defined in terms of the procedures required for an intracardial injection.

“Intracardiac (IC) injections (into one of the four chambers of the heart) are ONLY permitted for animals who have been rendered completely unconscious and insensitive to pain via administration of pre-euthanasia drugs. An injection into a conscious animal’s chest or heart is extremely painful and therefore considered to be unacceptable and cruel.”

What’s more, the intracardiac injection method is used for animal euthanasia only in the most extreme cases. As explained, the method is primarily used when a vein or the peritoneal cavity cannot be located on/within the animal.

Other forms of euthanasia are avoided, unacceptable, or outright banned as well, including the use of carbon monoxide chambers (in most states) and firearms. To view a report of other euthanasia , laws, and ethical standings related to the euthanasia process, view the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) official site at the following link:

http://www.animalsheltering.org/resource_library/policies_and_guidelines/statement_on_euthanasia.html.

To view the original report regarding the arrest of McCracken County employee, Beau Anderson, please click the following SurfKY News link:

KY Animal Shelter Employee Charged on Not Sedating Before Euthanizing 

Luke Short
SurfKY News
Information provided by the Humane Society of the United States and the official Kentucky Legislature website

 

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