Date Full Report Received10/27/2021
Date Abstract Report Received10/27/2020
Funded ByNational Pork Board
The objective of this study was to evaluate swine caretaker and veterinarian perceptions of euthanasia training, decision-making, challenges, and considerations for physical and mental health associated with euthanasia duties on swine operations with the intention of providing practical suggestions for improving management approach to euthanasia training and support. Euthanasia is utilized on livestock operations as a mechanism to alleviate suffering of diseased or injured animals that have little chance of recovery. Although euthanasia decisions are made with the animal’s interests in mind, it is often a difficult job for caretakers and veterinarians to perform. Research exploring the impacts of performing euthanasia on people who have chosen careers based on their affinity for caring for animals has been more prevalent in veterinarians and animal shelter workers as compared to livestock caretakers and veterinarians. An online survey was developed including questions related to euthanasia method, frequency, and training; job satisfaction and well-being; attitudes towards performing on-farm euthanasia; management attitude; support networks; and demographic and background information. Researchers recruited at two industry events and via a veterinarian e-newsletter. Forty-five completed caretaker surveys (managers = 21, workers = 17, and owners = 7) and twenty-five veterinarian surveys were received. Results indicated that although most caretakers and veterinarians felt confident performing euthanasia, some identified the desire to have more euthanasia training. Veterinarians should be integral in euthanasia protocol development, training, and execution. Although the importance of euthanasia training is recognized, there is still opportunity within the swine industry to ensure all employees are properly trained. It is evident that there is also a need to provide additional training to veterinarians as integral components of the veterinary school curriculum and continuing education programming. Human safety was consistently included in euthanasia training, as it should be, but strategies to cope with personal stress and ensure emotional wellness related to this specific task were not as reliably incorporated. Although the majority of caretakers identified that there were programs to promote worker health and resources to help them cope with job responsibilities, there is still an opportunity to integrate components of mental wellness into training and on-farm support programs. Logistical factors were noted as challenges to proper and timely euthanasia and need to be addressed. Additionally, as the impact that euthanasia can have on caretaker and veterinarian mental well-being becomes more recognized in the livestock industries, it is crucial to incorporate strategies for coping with the moral stress of having to perform euthanasia into training protocols, as currently this is not broadly addressed.
Lily Edwards-Callaway, PhD
Colorado State University
Campus Delivery 1171
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1171
(970) 491 5875
• Although the euthanasia training on the respondents’ respective farms was thought to be adequate, there is a desire for further euthanasia training by both caretakers and veterinarians.
• The incorporation of strategies to cope with the mental stress of performing euthanasia should be included in on-farm euthanasia training.
• Strategies to deal with the mental well-being impacts of performing euthanasia should be included into training and other management frameworks to provide support for those who make decisions about and perform euthanasia as part of their job.