Control measure knowledge

A person with responsibility for an animal may commit an offence if an act, or failure to act, causes an animal to suffer unnecessarily. Therefore, the need for euthanasia should be considered within any tactical plan at an incident involving animals. This decision will be influenced by a number of considerations including:

  • The safety of the emergency responders or animal
  • Welfare decisions, such as the severity of the animal’s injuries
  • Views of the owner of the animal, which could be based on commercial rationale

Methods of euthanasia include:

  • Chemical euthanasia
  • Gun shot
  • Captive-bolt stunner

Euthanasia can be carried out by:

  • Veterinary surgeons
  • Animal welfare charities
  • Police firearms teams

Fire and rescue services will not make the decision about whether an animal is euthanised. However, from a safety and welfare perspective, the incident commander will need to be involved in the decision about where and how the animal will be euthanised.

Further information about the euthanasia of animals, and the permissions required, can be found on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website and in the RSPCA’s euthanasia statement.

To avoid distress to the public, or to prevent filming, it may be appropriate to screen off the area where the animal will be euthanised. This will also provide a degree of privacy to those carrying out the task.


Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Maintain or have access to a directory of veterinary surgeons

  • Be aware of directories maintained by other organisations, for example a list of veterinary surgeons registered with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) or with the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association (BARTA)

  • Consider providing fire and rescue service vehicles with the equipment that could be used to provide adequate screening for the euthanasia of an animal, for example:

    • Salvage sheets
    • Tarpaulins
    • Canvas screens

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider the impact that euthanising the animal will have on the incident; this will need to take into account the location and method for euthanising the animal

  • Communicate the location and method for euthanising the animal to emergency responders

  • Consider using appropriate equipment to screen the animal from the view of the public or media

  • Consider extending cordons to a sufficient distance to prevent photography or filming of this activity