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Statement on Euthanasia

The HSUS is committed to zero euthanasia and the use of truly humane methods

Since the 1970s, euthanasia numbers in animal shelters have declined sharply—from about 15 million cats and dogs euthanized in 1970 to approximately 3.4 million in 2013—even as pet ownership has increased steadily.

Spay/neuter efforts have stemmed the tide

Much of this success can be attributed to widespread spay/neuter efforts, which successfully stemmed the tide of unwanted puppies and kittens in most communities and eliminated the bulk of pet overpopulation. We are now, thankfully, closer than ever to the day when euthanasia will be reserved only for animals who are suffering or are too aggressive to safely reside in our communities.

Community-wide solutions are key

In order to achieve our goal of zero euthanasia, it is critically important that we implement community-wide solutions outside the shelter walls that will prevent pet homelessness in the first place. The Humane Society of the United States—through programs such as Pets for Life, World Spay Day, Stop Puppy Mills, the Shelter Pet Project, and many others—is committed to encouraging families and individuals to acquire pets through humane sources, helping families keep their beloved pets, and supporting the human-animal bond. We believe that the only by addressing the root causes of animals entering shelters can we ensure that every animal truly in need will have an opportunity to find a loving home, thereby ending euthanasia.

All euthanasia must be as humane as possible

When the decision is made that euthanasia is the only option, it is critical to ensure it is performed as humanely as possible. Direct injection of sodium pentobarbital (referred to as euthanasia by injection, or EBI) is the most humane method available because it causes rapid loss of consciousness and an immediate inability to feel pain. Other methods—such as carbon monoxide gas chambers—that cause distress, fear, or pain in the animal, are not acceptable.

We all share the goal of ending euthanasia, and The HSUS works tirelessly to prevent pet homelessness, promote spay/neuter education, and encourage adoption from shelters and rescue groups. When the decision is made by a shelter to perform euthanasia, it must be performed with the same skill and compassion that we would expect to see if we brought our own suffering animal into that facility or to a veterinarian for a final act of mercy.

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