What is the Issue?
The Professional Practice Standard: Veterinary Euthanasia was last updated in June 2019. Amendments were made at that time to increase clarity surrounding informed client consent exemptions that exist in legislation outside of the Veterinarians Act.
In January 2020, the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act came into effect. This resulted in the review of all College standards and policies to ensure uniformity.
Review of the Professional Practice Standard: Veterinary Euthanasia flagged several areas for potential revision including strengthening messaging related to its applicability to all species, improving clarity on proper procedure related to potential human rabies exposure, and simplifying several expectations to ensure consistency of messaging across standards.
In September 2020, Council reviewed the proposed amended draft Professional Practice Standard: Veterinary Euthanasia. Following discussion, Council directed that the proposed amended draft be circulated for public consultation.
Why is it Important
The decision to euthanize an animal can be emotional and difficult. It can also raise complex issues for a veterinarian when deciding whether to recommend or perform euthanasia. A clear and concise Standard that is reflective of modern practice and all species-types will help veterinarians navigate this important aspect of veterinary medicine.
Overview of the Proposal
The draft amended Professional Practice Standard: Veterinary Euthanasia is available below.
The draft amended Standard was sent for public consultation for a 100-day period during which members of the College and members of the public were asked to provide their feedback.
What we heard
(a) Requests for sedation prior to veterinary euthanasia to be mandatory
(b) Questions regarding whether veterinary euthanasia can/should be delegated to an auxiliary
(c) Questions related to the need to refer veterinary euthanasia to another veterinarian and how to meet this requirement.
(d) Requests for more references to species-specific practices and guidelines for veterinary euthanasia
(e) Questions regarding the process of verifying ownership and how to ensure accuracy
(f) Questions related to whether a veterinarian can euthanize a suffering animal that has bitten or had other contact incidents with a human
(g) Questions regarding the removal of the expectation related to performing veterinary euthanasia as soon as possible
(h) Questions related to proper disposal of an animal’s body after euthanasia
The following quotes, summarized from comments received, reflect suggestions received through the College consultation:
- Consider making sedation prior to euthanasia a common practice
- Humane Euthanasia should always include sedation before the final injection of Pentobarbital.
- As an RVT, I am puzzled by the lack of mention of delegation to RVTs for euthanasia, as this is common practice. It appears to have been covered in the original point 8 that is stroked through and I would question why this is not covered by the standard?
- Can an agent perform euthanasia under vet supervision? What if the dog is critically ill and suffering afterhours but has bitten someone and the local public health unit cannot be contacted until the next day? For example.
- What are 'species specific accepted practices' regarding the euthanasia procedure?
- What is meant by verify the ownership. How do we do that. Lets suppose a new client comes in with their old cat. They tell us they have not see a vet in years because it is an indoor cat. How do I verify that this cat belongs to this person?
- In the case of a veterinarian who refuses to perform euthanasia that is deemed purely for convenience (i.e. animal is not in pain or distress and owner is requesting euthanasia for personal reasons) what is the requirement? Is said veterinarian responsible to find a veterinarian willing to perform euthanasia for this client?
- I disagree with the removal of the section about proceeding as soon as possible when a decision has been reached with the client in the case of a suffering animal. If they are suffering it is in the best interest of the animal to be humanely euthanized as soon as possible assuming the client is ready. If the euthanasia does not proceed in a timely manner then pain medications should be administered to ease any suffering which may be occurring.
- 12 - specify scratch as well as "other contact incidents"; Is authorization required from a Public Health Unit prior to euthanasia? What happens if an animal is suffering and contact cannot be made? Reasonable attempt should be made for discussion with Public Health Unit but not for authorization - this could prolong suffering and/or compromise public safety...continued...
- The wording of 9. (Assure themselves with a reasonable degree of certainty of a client’s preferences with respect to the method of disposal of the remains of the animal or group of animals.) requires clarity. It takes multiple times to read to understand that we are asked to clarify the client's intentions for the remains of the animal and how they wish to dispose of the remains.
How We Responded
College staff made several revisions to the proposed amended Standard based on the consultation feedback. Three areas of particular importance – sedation, indirect supervision, and confirmation of death – were flagged for in-depth Council discussion. College staff also recommended the development of an associated guide to help address questions raised in the consultation. These revisions, questions, and recommendations, along with all the consultation feedback received, were brought forward for Council review and consideration in March 2021.
Council reviewed the proposed amended draft Professional Practice Standard: Veterinary Euthanasia at its March 2021 meeting and directed that the amended Standard be published. Council also approved the recommendation for an associated guide to be developed.