Livestock raised in commercial settings may require euthanasia for many reasons (eg, disease, injury, or an excess of males in a dairy herd). In the dairy goat industry, there is currently limited information available regarding feasible and cost-effective methods for euthanizing goat kids that are safe for use by producers. Without that information, the welfare of dairy goats is likely compromised because inappropriate euthanasia methods may be used.
The term euthanasia is derived from the Greek words eu and thanatos meaning “good death” and is commonly used to describe the ending of an animal's life with minimal pain and distress.1 The primary objective of euthanasia is to cause rapid loss of consciousness that is sustained until death.1 To cause loss of consciousness and sufficient brain damage that leads to death, the cerebral hemispheres and brainstem (comprising the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata, which are responsible for life functions such as cardiac and respiratory activity) must be damaged. Acceptable methods of euthanasia consistently produce a humane or good death, whereas unacceptable methods are deemed inhumane or pose risks to the operator.
Acceptable methods of euthanasia for sheep and goats as described by the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia include a lethal overdose of a barbiturate, gunshot, and penetrating or nonpenetrating captive bolt devices.1 Barbiturates generally induce a smooth transition to unconsciousness and death and can be beneficial in many settings.2 However, a barbiturate overdose can only be administered by or under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian, which can increase the costs associated with euthanasia and proper disposal of the carcass (ie, incineration).1 Physical methods of euthanasia, such as gunshot and captive bolt, cause immediate loss of consciousness followed by death, but effective use of those methods is dependent on the anatomic landmarks used and the directional aim of the device.2 A danger associated with the use of firearms is that a bullet may travel through the skull of the animal and put the operator and other bystanders at risk of injury. Therefore, safe and effective euthanasia methods for small goat kids that can be administered by producers are warranted.
The use of a nonpenetrating captive bolt device to deliver consistent and controlled blunt force trauma to the skull causes rapid loss of consciousness and consequent death in 48-hour-old,3 1-week-old,4 and 3-week-old5 goat kids. However, those devices are expensive (ranging from $800 to $1,600), which has limited their adoption by the North American dairy goat industry. Goat producers need and desire a more cost-effective method for euthanizing young kids. One such method might be use of a multipump air pistol, which is often used to shoot (euthanize) vermin. The pellet fired by an air pistol is less likely than a bullet from a firearm to exit the skull and ricochet into bystanders. Additionally, air pistols are fairly inexpensive (approx $40), compared with nonpenetrating captive bolt devices,a and can be purchased without a firearms license.
The objective of the pilot study reported here was to assess the extent of damage to the skull and brain of cadaveric goat kids induced by pellets fired from a multipump air pistol at half (5 pumps), intermediate (7 pumps), and full (10 pumps) power. We hypothesized that pellets fired at full power, but not at half power, would cause sufficient damage to the brainstem to result in death and that the extent of brainstem damage induced by pellets fired at intermediate power would be less than that induced by pellets fired at full power, but greater than that induced by pellets fired at half power.
Supported by the USDA through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (grant No. 2018–67015–28136). Funding sources did not have any involvement in the study design, data analysis and interpretation, or writing and publication of the manuscript.
The authors declare that there were no conflicts of interest.
TED (turkey euthanasia device), Bock Industries, Krugersdorp, South Africa.
Strike Point multipump pellet pistol, Umarex USA Inc, Fort Smith, Ark.
Polymag 16-g pellet, Predator International Inc, Littleton, Colo.
Cash Special, Accles and Shelvoke, Coldfield, England.
Aquilion-16, Canon Medical Systems USA Inc, Tustin, Calif.
eFilm, version 4.2.2, Merge Healthcare, Chicago, Ill.
Coolpix L840, Nikon Inc, Tokyo, Japan.
1. AVMA. AVMA guidelines for the euthanasia of animals: 2020 edition. Available at: www.avma.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/2020_Euthanasia_Final_1-15-20.pdf. Accessed Jan 25, 2020.
2. Plummer PJ, Shearer JK, Kleinhenz KE, et al. Determination of anatomic landmarks for optimal placement in captive-bolt euthanasia of goats. Am J Vet Res 2018;79:276–281.
3. Sutherland MA, Watson TJ, Johnson CB, et al. Evaluation of the efficacy of a non-penetrating captive bolt to euthanase neonatal goats up to 48 hours of age. Anim Welf 2016;25:471–479.
4. Grist A, Lines JA, Knowles TG, et al. Use of a non-penetrating captive bolt for euthanasia of neonate goats. Animals (Basel) 2018;8:58.
5. Sutherland MA, Watson TJ, Millman ST. Evaluation of the efficacy of a non-penetrating captive bolt to euthanase dairy goat kids up to 30 days of age. Anim Welf 2017;26:277–280.
8. Thompson KG, Bateman RS, Morris PJ. Cerebral infarction and meningoencephalitis following hot-iron disbudding of goat kids. N Z Vet J 2005;53:368–370.
9. Wright HJ, Adams DS, Trigo FJ. Meningoencephalitis after hot-iron disbudding of goat kids. Vet Med Small Anim Clin 1983;78:599–601.
10. Van den Brom R, Greijdanus-van der Putten S, Van der Heijden M, et al. Thermal disbudding in goat kids in the Netherlands: current practice, complications and considerations. Small Rumin Res 2020;183:106036.
13. Collins SL, Caldwell M, Hecht S, et al. Comparison of penetrating and nonpenetrating captive bolt methods in horned goats. Am J Vet Res 2017;78:151–157.