Skip to content Skip to navigation

Rescue Group Best Practices: veterinary and euthanasia policies


It is important to have a policy in place, approved by the board of directors, regarding veterinary care. This policy should include instructions to the executive director on various aspects of veterinary care so that the director does not have to ask the board for permission every time the organization seeks medical attention for an animal in need. The policy should cover issues such as how much the organization can spend on an animal without board approval, what conditions will be treated under what circumstances and what health situations require board approval prior to treatment. It is critical to have a protocol in place so that a rescue group does not overextend its resources and jeopardize the entire organization by addressing more medical issues than it can handle.


There are times when the only humane option for an animal is euthanasia. The issue of euthanasia in rescue groups generally arises when an animal is suffering (physically or mentally) and the organization does not have the resources or ability to stop or ease the suffering.

The decision to euthanize is never easy, but you can find guidance within the Five Freedoms. While euthanasia philosophy may differ between individual organizations, policy should always ensure that an animal receives all Five Freedoms through the end of life. Once an animal’s quality of life has deteriorated to the point where freedom from discomfort and pain (physical and mental) is no longer possible, euthanasia becomes the humane option.

Drafting a clear euthanasia policy and having it approved by the board of directors will allow you to create a policy that adheres to the values of the organization. It will also help your rescue group maintain consistency and avoid problems down the road. You can find a sample euthanasia policy in Appendix C.

All euthanasia must be conducted humanely by a veterinarian or certified euthanasia technician who administers an injection of sodium pentobarbital (a tranquilizer is not required, but may be appropriate), and the animal must be made comfortable throughout the procedure.