WRAS’s Euthanasia Policy

Animal Welfare is paramount at East Sussex WRAS. Euthanasia of a casualty is not taken lightly, and it is WRAS’s policy for this to never be a single persons responsibility. Animals will fight tooth and claw to survive so WRAS strongly believes in giving all casualties individual care and attention, and if there is any doubt about the casualty’s ability to survive the casualty will be supported for at least 24 or 48 hours and then reassessed with the support of our Veterinary Team.

Casualties are as individual as humans, so what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. Reactions to rescue, captivity, treatment all vary from individual to individual. As a result each casualty is treated as an individual but taking into consideration the needs and habits of the species too.

WRAS’s aim is to return as many casualties to the wild as possible and also back to their home range. However there are occasions when the best course of action is to euthanase. For example a road casualty fox with permanent paralysis, or a cat attacked bird with old injuries and its intestines dry and exposed.

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 euthanase the animal.

Wild animals and birds are not the same as domestic and agricultural animals, primarily because they are frightened of humans. It is important not to anthropomorphize our emotions onto wild animals who often react completely differently to how a domestic animals or humans would. This often causes people to misread the condition of a casualty which can cause it to then suffer.  Each species acts differently and have their own stress factors which impacts on their ability to be treated and released back to the wild.

Although WRAS is lucky to have better facilities than most small wildlife rescue organistions, WRAS doesn’t have unlimited funds. In a similar way to the NICE deciding on which medication and treatments should be allowed on the NHS, WRAS also has to set a level to which treatment is cost effective without causing a detrimental effect on the long term ability of the charity to treat casualties without closing down.

The charity will where possible pass casualties to other rescue organisations when WRAS doesn’t have suitable facilities to look after the casualty, or where other organisations have more specialist knowledge, experience or facilities than WRAS can provide.  Also where the casualties condition is unusual and not  something which WRAS’s Veterinary Team are used to dealing with, or where WRAS’s facilities are occupied and unable to take in the individual casualty.

WRAS is not against disable wildlife casualties being kept in captivity, but believes many are done so using inappropriate or over-crowded facilities causing distress, disease and suffering.  WRAS is not a sanctuary and does not have facilities for keeping disabled or non-releasable casualties in captivity. The only exception to this is large enclosed gardens where disabled hedgehogs are placed where they can live “as if wild” and be monitored.  Only at sanctuaries where suitable facilities and knowledge exists will WRAS pass over disabled or non-releasable casualties to wildlife sanctuaries for them to be kept in care and to live “as if wild”. WRAS strongly believes any disabled wildlife must be able to live in conditions which provide the 5 freedoms:

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, by ready access to fresh water and a suitable diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  • Freedom from Discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment including ground cover/vegetation, flooring, shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment, keeping animals in hygienic conditions.
  • Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress, by insuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

WRAS regularly sends waterfowl to the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton, bats to the Bat Hospital, and feral pigeons to several pigeon keepers with suitable facilities to look after long term or non-releasable cases to name a few.

It is a sad fact that wildlife rescue organisations up and down the country all have to euthanase casualties, and many trauma cases are just too severe to treat and recover from. The overwhelming responsibility on any rescue organisation is to ensure that casualties which come into care do not suffer.  Sadly it is impossible to avoid putting some casualties to sleep on medical ground.

WRAS has changed hugely over the past 20 years, and where we were unable to house and treat some casualties 10 years ago, we are able to now, providing bigger and better facilities.

WRAS is committed to improving its facilities and continually learning and developing its ability to treat and care for wildlife, learning from other established rescue centres new techniques for the care and treatment of casualties, expanding its facilities to increase the numbers taken into care and the purchase of new and additional equipment to improve the quality of care we can provide.

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