While it cannot be said that the ASPCA is “for” euthanasia, it recognizes the inevitable necessity for euthanasia in certain circumstances. In many areas of the country there are more pets than there are appropriate homes. The ASPCA believes that unwanted pets deserve a dignified, painless death rather than suffer from such cruelties as malnutrition, disease or trauma, outcomes commonly associated with an unwanted and/or uncared-for existence. Similarly, long-term housing of individual dogs and cats in cages without access to exercise or social activities is not an acceptable alternative. Euthanasia must be understood for what it is: a last-step, end-of-the-road option to spare animals further hardship and suffering.
The ASPCA recommends the injection of sodium pentobarbital as the preferred agent for euthanasia of shelter animals. Euthanasia should be performed only by skilled professionals who have been trained and certified in administering injectable euthanasia solution. Euthanasia should not be performed in the presence of live animals, and it is essential that the proper steps are taken by the trained staff to verify that death has occurred. Performed properly, euthanasia by injection is the most humane, safest, fastest and least stressful to the animal and is safe for shelter personnel. No forms of drowning, suffocation, electrocution, mechanical stunning or killing are acceptable alternatives. In emergency situations, when no other options are available, trained officials only may carry out euthanasia using firearms. The ASPCA supports the recommendations of the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia [.pdf] as the very minimum standard to be followed for domestic animals and wildlife.