The AVMA’s Humane Endings Symposium; A brief overview in preparation for 2023 event

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The Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA) was pleased to recently learn that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is going to host their 3rd symposium focused on the humane death of animals in 2023.  The eventual end of life will affect all manner of species, whether living in the wild, part of a commercial farming operation, or companion family member.  It is the goal of groups like the AVMA to ensure that if life must be ended (due to suffering or a necessitated need for human use), it should be carried out with the utmost care and sensitivity. This we know to be true and unquestionable.  What veterinarians and scientists continue to seek is how best to facilitate a good death.  Modern medical advancements mean humane endings can be improved, and those paying attention are eager to both share and learn better approaches.

The 2014 and 2018 symposiums were held near Chicago.  It included keynote addresses from experts and a variety of presentations from professionals around the world.  Many authors of the AVMA’s Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals document were in attendance.  These guidelines are considered a ‘living document’, always improving through research.  Attendees included veterinarians representing just about every industry, animal welfare scientists, government officials, pharmaceutical reps and more. Something I appreciated at the event was the opportunity to connect with colleagues who believe as strongly as I do that a good death is as important as a good life.

With the COVID pandemic beginning to wane, it appears the 3rd symposium will be held in early 2023. An announcement has gone out asking for submissions of interest including recent research findings; reviews of research in a defined area; discussions of voluntary or regulatory oversight; and efforts or methods for harmonizing recommendations, nationally and internationally.  All research studies involving animals must have been performed in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, and use of animals must be consistent with guidance contained within the US Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, NRC Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, or Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching.

It may seem a bit unorthodox to look forward to a symposium such as this one but as I work towards board certification in animal welfare, I feel a sense of gratitude for these people who devote so much time and skill to making an ending humane.  I have no doubt the presentations will open up important dialogue and connect people together. The topic of humane death is complex, and while the symposium may not be able to answer all questions, it’s a solid step in the right direction yet again.  Veterinary professionals…I hope to see you there.

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Dr. Kathleen Cooney

DVM, CHPV, CPEV, DACAW resident Founder, Senior Director of Education for the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy

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