Euthanasia (IACUC)

Last updated on March 5, 2024 2 min read Euthanasia (IACUC)


Boston University (BU) is committed to observing Federal policies and regulations and the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International standards for the humane care and use of animals. The intent of this policy is to provide guidance on euthanasia of laboratory animals. Adherence to this policy is mandatory unless a specific exception has been approved by the IACUC.

Covered Parties

This policy is applicable to all persons responsible for conducting research, teaching, training, breeding, and related activities, hereinafter referred to collectively as “activities”, involving live vertebrate animals conducted at or under the auspices of Boston University.

University Policy

All methods of euthanasia must be described in the IACUC protocol and approved. PHS Policy requires that methods of euthanasia be consistent with the recommendations of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia unless a deviation is justified for scientific reasons in writing by the investigator. The most current guidance document for review of these methods is the AVMA Guidelines for Euthanasia of Animals: 2020 Edition. Recommended methods of euthanasia are those that are listed in that document as “Acceptable” or “Acceptable with Conditions” where the given conditions are met. Methods that meet those criteria for common laboratory species are listed below. Physical methods such as cervical dislocation of small rodents (less than 200g) and the use of a guillotine may be used but require training and approval by the IACUC. Proficiency for all users of physical methods must be demonstrated and documented. In all cases, death must be verified after euthanasia and prior to carcass disposal.

Species-Specific Euthanasia

AnimalAcceptable Methods of Euthanasia
  1. Anesthetic overdose (e.g. immersion in buffered MS-222)
  2. Rapid chilling of small tropical fish (e.g. zebrafish)
  3. General anesthesia followed by vital tissue removal
Laboratory Rodents
  1. Carbon dioxide inhalation
  2. Pentobarbital overdose (≥200mg/kg IP) (adults and neonates)
  3. General anesthesia followed by vital tissue removal, perfusion, exsanguination, or decapitation
  4. For neonates of altricial rodents <7 days of age: Carbon dioxide inhalation or general anesthesia followed by decapitation
Larger Mammals
  1. Pentobarbital overdose (≥120 mg/kg IV)
  2. General anesthesia followed by vital tissue removal, perfusion, exsanguination, or decapitation

Responsible Parties

Principal Investigators are responsible for: preparing and submitting IACUC applications; making modifications in applications in order secure IACUC approval; ensuring adherence to approved protocols; ensuring humane care and use of animals; ensuring that all personnel have completed required training; and reporting any adverse events to the IACUC.

The Animal Welfare Program and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee are responsible for overseeing policy implementation and ensuring compliance with this policy.


Euthanasia: derived from the Greek terms eu meaning good and thanatos meaning death. A good death is the humane termination of an animal’s life.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC): means the committee that is responsible for oversight and evaluation of the entire Animal Care and Use Program and its components as described in The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, Eighth Edition. Its oversight functions include review and approval of proposed animal use (protocol review) and of proposed significant changes to animal use; regular inspection of facilities and animal use areas; regular review of the Program; ongoing assessment of animal care and use; and establishment of a mechanism for receipt and review of concerns involving the care and use of animals at the institution.

AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2020 Edition
PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations


Effective Date: 03/05/2024
Next Review Date: 03/04/2027

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