WRAS’s Euthanasia Policy


Similar to humans, wildlife exhibit natural responses like "Fight," "Flight," or "Freeze" when faced with traumatic, unusual, or frightening situations. The "freeze" response is commonly misunderstood as the animal being calm and relaxed, potentially masking more severe injuries. When a wildlife casualty shows the "Flight" response, people may mistakenly assume the animal is healthy if it has no visible wing or leg injuries. Additionally, a casualty displaying aggression in the "Fight" response might be perceived as lively and attempting to flee, whereas it could indicate pain and distress. These misconceptions often lead individuals to believe the casualty is in better condition than it actually is.

An individual casualty who appears healthy on the outside may be silently struggling with internal injuries that may go unnoticed by finders.

Similarly, some individuals may take injured casualties directly to a veterinary surgeon, assuming that the injuries are severe and require euthanasia. This might be influenced by the amount of blood visible, the size or odor of a wound, or its appearance of collapse. Surprisingly, some wounds that appear severe can still be effectively treated. Blood mixed with rainwater can create a misleading perception of the amount of blood that has been shed. There are quite a range of fractures which do not require a casualty to be euthanised.

This might be influenced by the amount of blood visible, the size or odor of a wound, or its appearance of collapse. Surprisingly, some wounds that appear severe can still be effectively treated.

It is never an easy task to have to end the life of a suffering wildlife casualty. This issue is emotionally charged and involves a delicate balance between providing a chance and preventing unnecessary suffering.

Terms like "Putting to sleep" and "Ending its suffering" all refer to the same thing - euthanasia, which is the end of a life. In this policy, we will use the professional veterinary term "Euthanasia". While some may perceive this as lacking in care and compassion, we want to assure you that our decisions to euthanise are always made with the utmost care and compassion for the individual animal in need.

Some people are surprised when their casualty has passed

2023 Clinical Efficiency Rating: 71.75%

This percentage represents the successful treatment of casualties after excluding cases where survival was not possible, such as those who passed away at the scene or in the early stages due to the severity of their condition. It is always important to try and attempt treatment in some cases in order to learn and develop treatments.

Euthanasia Policy.

At East Sussex WRAS, Animal Welfare is of utmost importance. Euthanizing an injured animal is a serious decision, and WRAS ensures it is never the responsibility of one individual alone. Recognizing that animals have a strong will to survive, WRAS is committed to providing each casualty with personalized care and attention. If there are concerns about an animal's chances of survival, it will be monitored for 24 to 48 hours before a reassessment with the Veterinary Team.

Each animal is unique, just like humans, and their responses to rescue, care, and treatment vary. Therefore, every casualty is treated individually, taking into account species-specific needs and behaviours.

The primary goal of WRAS is to release as many animals back into the wild and their natural habitat. However, there are situations where euthanasia is the most humane option, such as in cases of permanent paralysis in a fox due to a road accident or severe injuries in a bird attacked by a cat with exposed and dry intestines.

WRAS considers the following clear-cut cases for euthanasia:

  • A severed and displaced vertebral column.
  • The loss of two or more limbs.
  • A bird that is completely blind.
  • A swan, goose or duck that loses a leg (but only after consultation with the Swan Sanctuary Veterinary Team).
  • Most adult male deer that cannot be released.
  • Disabled wood pigeons – wood pigeons never settle in captivity.
  • Birds of prey and Corvids with only one leg.
  • WRAS also considers the following not so clear-cut cases for euthanasia:
  • Any casualty which is going to have to suffer unacceptable levels of pain even if treated.
  • Any casualty which will never have any quality of life even if they recover and are kept in captivity.
  • Any casualty which cannot benefit from veterinary techniques evolved for domestic animals but that are unsuitable for wild animals.
  • Any casualty which requires a long period or permanent captivity without suitable facilities being available.

Euthanasia is never undertaken out on site unless assessed by a vet first. Deer are the only exception and if not treatable a suitably qualified fire-arms user is called to euthanise the animal.

Wild animals and birds differ from domestic and agricultural animals mainly because they fear humans. It's crucial not to project our emotions onto wild animals, as they often react differently than domestic animals or humans. This misunderstanding can lead to misinterpreting the condition of an injured animal, resulting in unnecessary suffering. cEach species behaves uniquely and has specific stress factors that affect their treatment and release back into the wild.

While WRAS is fortunate to have better resources compared to many small wildlife rescue organizations, it operates within financial constraints. Similar to the NICE determining approved medications and treatments for the NHS, WRAS must establish a cost-effective treatment threshold without jeopardizing the charity's long-term ability to care for casualties without shutting down.

Whenever possible, the charity refers casualties to other rescue organizations if WRAS lacks the appropriate facilities to care for them or if other organizations offer more specialized knowledge, experience, or facilities. Additionally, casualties with unusual conditions beyond WRAS's Veterinary Team expertise or when WRAS's facilities are at capacity are also transferred.

WRAS supports the idea of disabled wildlife being kept in captivity but believes that many facilities are inadequate, leading to distress, disease, and suffering. WRAS is not a sanctuary and lacks the resources to care for disabled or non-releasable casualties in captivity, except for large enclosed gardens where disabled hedgehogs can live naturally and be monitored. Disabled or non-releasable casualties are transferred to wildlife sanctuaries where appropriate conditions and knowledge exist, ensuring they can live as if in the wild. WRAS advocates for disabled wildlife to have the freedom to:

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
  • Freedom from Discomfort
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury, or Disease
  • Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress

WRAS frequently sends waterfowl to the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton, bats to the Bat Hospital, and feral pigeons to pigeon keepers with suitable facilities for long-term or non-releasable cases, among other cases.

With limited funding, organizations must consider the expenses of caring for disabled casualties in enclosures. This may limit their capacity to assist others who could recover and be released if the enclosures were accessible. If rescue organisations had greater financial resources, this dilemma would be as big an issue.

It is a regrettable reality that wildlife rescue organizations nationwide often have to euthanize injured animals, as some trauma cases are too severe to recover from. The primary concern of any rescue organization is to prevent suffering for the animals under their care. Unfortunately, some animals have to be euthanized based on medical reasons.

Over the last two decades, WRAS has undergone significant transformations. What was once impossible to accommodate and treat a decade ago is now achievable with larger and enhanced facilities.

WRAS is dedicated to enhancing its facilities and constantly enhancing its skills to care for wildlife. By learning from other reputable rescue centres, new methods for treating casualties are being adopted, while expanding facilities to accommodate more animals in need. Additionally, new equipment is being acquired to enhance the level of care provided.

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