Petition Review the euthanasia of animals in the UK and impose reporting requirements

The Government should hold a review into the numbers of animals euthanised in the UK, and the reasons why, and identify a solution to protect animals from being unnecessarily euthanised.

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This review should investigate the number of healthy and treatable animals which are euthanised in the UK, to inform decisions about how to protect animals from being unnecessarily euthanised in future. The review should consider solutions such as a centralised reporting system, so that local councils, rescue centres, vet practices and crematoriums are required to retain and report key information about the animals they euthanise such as descriptions, microchip numbers, and their registered vet.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 June 2022

Existing vet requirements already protect animals from unnecessary euthanasia. There is no evidence of widespread unnecessary euthanasia requiring a government review or new reporting requirement.

Making a decision to euthanise an animal is often a complex, emotional and challenging decision, particularly when that animal is a much-loved family pet. Veterinary surgeons play an integral part in the decision to carry out euthanasia, in particular in relation to companion animals.

Euthanasia of an animal is an important means to help protect animal welfare by being able to relieve suffering. Whilst this is the primary reason for euthanasia, a veterinary surgeon must also take account of the owners’ wishes and circumstances. Advice about euthanasia is laid out in the guidance underpinning the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons, which all veterinary surgeons practising in the UK must adhere to. Where a veterinary surgeon considers a request for euthanasia is not in the best interest of the animal, they can and do challenge this.

Last year the RCVS guidance was updated to provide greater assurance that alternatives to euthanasia are explored before a dog is put down (the Tuk’s Law principle). It now requires veterinary surgeons to scan for a microchip in dogs prior to euthanasia where, in their professional judgement, it is not necessary to put the dog down on animal health or welfare grounds.

Checking the details on the relevant microchip database reveals who the animal’s registered keepers are and can also alert the veterinary surgeon to anyone else who may have an interest in the animal. This may include rescue centres which have entered support back-up information on the microchip record. This information can help inform consideration about alternatives to euthanasia.

In March 2022 we launched a consultation to seek views on changes to current microchipping legislation which, if adopted, may make it easier and simpler for veterinary surgeons when they apply this RCVS guidance, for example by making it easier to access microchip database information. When compulsory cat microchipping is introduced, we expect that the RCVS will also consider applying this guidance on euthanasia to cats as well as to dogs. Other aspects of euthanasia guidance underpinning the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons already apply to all animals.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 ensures there are safeguards in place to protect the welfare of animals, including those undergoing euthanasia. We have not seen evidence of widespread unnecessary euthanasia and we do not consider that the case for a review or for a new reporting requirement has been established. A review may also have resource implications for both the veterinary profession and for the Government.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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