It is unpleasant, to say the least, to "put down" an animal suffering from a disease or injury for which there is no feasible cure. And unless euthanasia is conducted properly, it can be extremely stressful on the person or persons involved in the process – as well as the animal.

"Euthanasia is often unavoidable," says Morgan Morrow, "and should be viewed as a humanitarian tool for alleviating the suffering of individual animals and protecting the health of other animals in the operation. Killing an animal should never be the easy way out for poor management." Morrow is an extension swine veterinarian at North Carolina State University.

"Because of the nature of the task," he continues, "euthanasia is often stressful for people involved. But if performed professionally in a way that results in a painless death, the stress will be minimized on the worker or workers."

Only a person who understands and follows proper procedures should carry out euthanasia. He offers these recommendations for euthanasia procedures to minimize stress on animals and people:

  • For nursing pigs and weaned pigs up to about 25 pounds, use carbon dioxide. It works quickly to anestheticize the pig. The compressed gas is not dangerous to personnel. CO2 is a normal component of air, non-flammable, non-explosive and low cost.
  • To euthanize an animal that weighs more than 25 pounds, Morrow recommends using a captive-bolt pistol and making sure that the animal is securely re-strained. This is essential for proper placement of the muzzle. The shot should be directed to the brain from a central point slightly above a line between the eyes. This may be done indoors except for a large sow or boar that is too dangerous to snare and restrain. That animal needs to be taken outdoors and shot with a 22-caliber, captive-bolt pistol, which is preferable to an ordinary pistol or rifle because there are no free projectiles that could ricochet and hit someone.

Recognizing individual workers' aversions to euthanizing an animal is extremely important to your operation. "The job should be assigned only to a person who is willing to do it voluntarily," he notes.

He goes on to point out that if you force a worker to perform or observe euthanasia against his or her will, it may result in one or more of these negative consequences: Low morale, job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, loss of a competent team member, belligerence, careless and callous animal handling.