Abstracts: How decision-making about euthanasia for animals is taught to Australasian veterinary students

This study set out to explore how euthanasia decision-making for animals was taught to students in eight Australasian veterinary schools. A questionnaire-style interview guide was used by a representative at each university to interview educators.

Educators were interviewed about their teaching of euthanasia decision-making for four categories of animals: livestock, equine, companion and avian/wildlife. Using thematic analysis, the terms provided by participants to describe how (mode of teaching) and what (specific content) they taught to students were categorised. Information about content was categorised into human-centred factors that influence decision-making, and animal-based indicators used to directly inform decision-making.

All eight representatives reported some teaching relevant to euthanasia decision-making at their university for livestock, companion animal and avian/wildlife. One representative reported no such teaching for equid animals at their university. Observation of a euthanasia case was rarely reported as a teaching method. Five universities reported multiple modes of teaching relevant information, while two universities made use of modalities that could be described as opportunistic teaching (e.g., ‘Discussion of clinical cases’). Factors taught at most universities included financial considerations, and that it is the owner’s decision to make, while animal-based indicators taught included QoL/animal welfare, prognosis and behaviour change.

Overall, most universities used a variety of methods to cover relevant material, usually including lectures and several other approaches for all animal types. However, because two universities relied on presentation of clinical cases, not all students at these veterinary schools will be exposed to make, or assist in making, euthanasia decisions.

Keywords: animals; decision-making; education; ethics; euthanasia; veterinary; welfare.

K E Littlewood 1N J Beausoleil 1K J Stafford 1C Stephens 2T Collins 3A Quain 4S Hazel 5Jk F Lloyd6C Mallia 7L Richards 8N K Wedler 3S Zito 9

Aust Vet J. 2021 May 17.doi: 10.1111/avj.13077. 

1School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, 4442, New Zealand.

2School of Psychology, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, 4442, New Zealand.

3College of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia, 6150, Australia.

4Sydney School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, 2006, Australia.

5School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5005, Australia.

6Discipline of Veterinary Sciences, College of Public Health, Medical & Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, 1 Solander Drive, Townsville, Queensland, 4811, Australia.

7School of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, New South Wales, 2640, Australia.

8School of Veterinary Science, University of Melbourne, 250 Princes Highway, Werribee, Victoria, 3030, Australia.

9Animal Welfare Science and Education Department, Royal New Zealand SPCA National Office, 3047 Great North Road, Auckland, 0640, New Zealand.

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