Anatomical Landmarks for Euthanasia
Canadian Code of Practice for Equines
In horses, the brain is situated high in the head. The correct point of entry of the bullet or captive bolt is approximately 2.5cm (lin) above the intersection of two diagonal lines each running from the inside corner of the eye to the base of the opposite ear (see top photo). Ideally, the firearm or captive bolt should be angled so the bullet follows the angle of the neck or the spine.
Proper positioning of the firearm or penetrating captive bolt is essential in order to ensure a quick death. When euthanasia is performed by gunshot, the firearm should be held within 15-30cm (6-12in) of the point of entt)'-. When performed by penetrating captive bolt, the device must be held in contact against the head at the correct anatomical site.
Horses may require restraint in order to facilitate safe and effective euthanasia, particularly if using a penetrating captive bolt (options include a halter and lead rope or bridle).
Technical Guidelines for Euthanasia Methods
Important Safety Guidelines
Be aware that if euthanizing a standing horse by gunshot, the horse may lunge forward or rear up when shot.
If euthanizing a horse by gunshot, the bullet may ricochet or pass through the horse. Therefore, it is very important to ensure no person or other animal is within range.
Guidelines for Euthanizing a Horse by Free Bullet
It is imperative to use a sufficiently powered firearm. For horses heavier than 180kg (4001b) select a gun that provides a minimum of 1,000 ft lbs of muzzle energy. This information can be found on the box of the ammunition used with your firearm. Most handguns are NOT sufficient. A .22 calibre gun may not be a sufficiently powered firearm for horses. Appropriate options for horses include the 20,16 and 12 gauge shotgun. Slugs are the best choice, No. 4, 5, or 6 birdshot is ONLY acceptable for close-range. Woods et al. (2010), listed in the References, provides further details.
Guidelines for Euthanizing a Horse by Penetrating Captive Bolt Gun
It is imperative to use a penetrating captive bolt gun that is designed to euthanize horses and is the correct caliber. Some models are NOT designed to euthanize a horse - they merely stun the horse and a secondary step is required. There are captive bolt guns on the market now designed specifically for euthanasia on farm. A .25 calibre with an extended bolt is the most effective captive bolt gun for single-step euthanasia. If a less powerful captive bolt gun is used, there is a risk that the horse may only be temporarily stunned and a secondary method will be required. Woods et al. (2010), listed in the References, provides further details. Proper maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions is also essential.
Acceptable secondary steps include: a second shot by free bullet or penetrating captive bolt and a second injection (administered by a veterinarian). Cardiac puncture, bleeding, and pithing (insertion of a rod into the hole created by the captive bolt and agitation of the rod to destroy the brain) are acceptable secondary steps ONLY if the animal is confirmed unconscious. If using a penetrating captive bolt gun, the requirement for a secondary step depends on the model used.
Secondary steps performed on an unconscious animal should be performed within 30 seconds of the first step (with the exception of a second injection, which is at the discretion of the veterinarian).