When deciding who should carry out the emergency killing of an animal, it is important to remember that the animal should be killed as soon as possible. The appropriate person may be a veterinary surgeon, a slaughterman, a knackerman, or the owner of the animal or someone else with the necessary skills, acting on behalf of the owner.

Veterinary surgeon

A veterinary surgeon should be the first person to call if the animal is involved in an accident which results in serious injury, or if the animal is suffering from a serious illness. A veterinary surgeon will be able to decide if emergency killing is necessary and, if so, kill the animal using any of the methods described in this guide, including lethal injection. Remember that an animal cannot be eaten after being killed by lethal injection.  A veterinary surgeon should be able to attend quickly in an emergency.


A trained slaughterman may be able to kill an animal in an emergency using captive-bolt equipment or firearms. In some countries, certain certification and licences could be required. A slaughterman might not be able to attend quickly in an emergency.


In some countries, knackermen may be available to kill an animal in an emergency and dispose of the carcase. Knackermen may be required to hold certain certification and licences to carry out such a service. As with slaughtermen, a knackerman might not be able to attend quickly in an emergency.


If other options are not available, or will incur a significant time delay, it may be necessary for the owner of the animal to kill the animal (this should only be considered if the owner is competent), or to request someone else with the necessary skills to do it. Owners of animals should consider seeking training in emergency killing methods so that they are prepared for when such emergencies occur. The methods available may be restricted, depending on the equipment available. Owners should also make sure they are familiar with any legal requirements before killing an animal. Failure to plan for and protect the welfare of an animal at this time could cause it to suffer, and as a result it may be considered that an offence against the law was committed. It is important for the welfare of the animal that the killing is carried out confidently, quickly and humanely. 

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