Humane Endpoints and Euthanasia

Humane endpoints are an important refinement that should be incorporated in animal experiments, especially if animals may experience pain and distress. A humane endpoint is the point at which an animal’s pain and/or distress is terminated, minimized, or reduced using methods such as euthanasia, terminating the painful procedure, relieving the pain with treatment, or restoring a basic requirement (e.g., returning an animal to social housing if isolation causes distress). Some examples of humane endpoints include a certain change in body temperature, body weight, or expression of specific behaviors. When selecting a humane endpoint, you should consider the various stages of discomfort, and the pain and distress the experiment may cause. An endpoint should be established before it is obvious that the animal will die unless the action is terminated, yet still be compatible with the experiment’s objectives. This will promote animal welfare while also gathering the necessary data from the experiment.

American Veterinary Medical Association.

This 2020 report provides recommendations to give veterinarians guidance in relieving pain and suffering of animals that are to be euthanatized. (NOTE: This document updates the previous guidelines published in 2013 and 2007).

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

A summary of statutory and regulatory provisions addressing the euthanasia of companion animals.

DHHS. NIH. Office of Animal Care and Use.

This document states that selection of appropriate endpoints requires careful consideration of the study's scientific requirements, possible pain, distress or illness the research animals may experience, the most likely time course and progression of those adverse effects, and the earliest most predictive indicators of present or impending adverse effects.