Thoracic Compression for Euthanasia of Small BirdsApproved November 19, 1998 (Download)
Background: Thoracic compression has been widely used as a euthanasia method for small birds (e.g., sparrows or smaller birds). Gripping such birds in the hand and applying modest pressure reportedly results in unconsciousness in no more than two seconds with death rapidly following. The method is not one considered, in the 1993 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia. It is further not a method recommended for use in the Report of the American Ornithologist's Union Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Use of Wild Birds in Research (supplement to The Auk, Vol. 105, No. 1, January 1988). As described, it does seem to offer advantages of rapid unconsciousness, quick and easy accomplishment, and no chemical contamination of tissue. Information has not been provided by proponents of thoracic compression to clarify the mechanism of death by this method or such issues as whether there is persistence of electrical activity in the brain following the application of this procedure.
Policy: Euthanasia of birds by thoracic compression is not at the present time an accepted method of euthanasia. With the presentation of data to support the contention that unconsciousness and death occur in seconds, such as cessation of EEG activity within 15 seconds, a reasonable basis might exist for local acceptance of this method. In the meantime, other acceptable methods of euthanasia are available to investigators. Approval to use thoracic compression is granted only with compelling scientific justification, assurance that acceptable alternative approaches are not available, and assurance of competence.