The PAWS Chicago Euthanasia Policy | PAWS Chicago

The PAWS Chicago Euthanasia Policy


In a No Kill shelter, the Euthanasia Policy is the most important operational document. It ensures the integrity of the No Kill commitment and governs when it is appropriate for the organization to take a life. It must be established by the Board of Directors.

Additionally, the Euthanasia Policy is critical to mitigate liability for the organization when handling behaviorally challenging dogs. It helps ensure all steps are taken for behavioral rehabilitation but also recognizes the responsibility to maintain a safe environment for people and other pets.

PAWS Chicago’s senior management and veterinary teams invested significant time in 2013 to refine the Euthanasia Policy and supporting documentation. The Board of Directors formally adopted this document in October 2013. It will serve as a foundation for No Kill Academy in the future and as a model for other No Kill shelters.

The Policy requires that a detailed Mortality Report be presented and reviewed at each meeting of the Board of Directors. The Mortality Report details each euthanasia and death at PAWS Chicago.

There are three scenarios for euthanasia at PAWS Chicago:

Refers to cases where an animal’s pain and suffering cannot be alleviated and the prognosis for recovery is grave or poor. A common standard is for an individual to consider how he would treat his own pet if faced with the same situation.

Examples include:

  • Advanced stages of disease where the animal is not responding to treatment
  • Massive trauma and congenital defects affecting quality of life

Euthanasia is always a last resort when it is in the best interest of the animal. Before an animal can be euthanized for medical reasons, a PAWS veterinarian and a manager must concur that there are no other options. The approval is documented and reported to the Board of Directors.

Refers to dogs with severe aggression. Placing these animals in a home would constitute a danger to the owners or public.

Any animal that has shown aggressive tendencies, exhibits extreme anxiety/fear, or shows other types of behavioral disorders will be evaluated by a PAWS-approved behaviorist. Dogs will also be evaluated by the PAWS Chicago Director of Canine Training & Behavior.

The animal will receive behavior modification training and/or prescription medication. If he doesn’t respond well, we will try other methods of training or medication. If the animal still does not show improvement and the behaviorist and trainer agree that all options have been exhausted, the animal will be identified as Behaviorally Non-Rehabilitatable

Only after the following criteria are met will an animal be euthanized due to behavioral issues:

  • Bloodwork is done to rule out any medical issues.
  • A PAWS Chicago-approved board certified behaviorist and trainer agree that response to behavioral therapy and/or medical therapy has been poor and all available options have been exhausted.
  • There are no available breed-rescue or qualified sanctuary locations available.
  • The animal’s quality of life is poor or likely to degrade with time.
  • The Euthanasia Review Committee (CEO, Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Animal Operations) concurs with the assessment of the animal as Behaviorally Non-Rehabilitatable

The only exception occurs when the behaviorist deems the animal to be inherently dangerous to the public. In this case, the animal will be euthanized with the approval of a single PAWS Chicago manager.

Once an animal is euthanized, the details surrounding the animal’s condition and all of the decisions made are documented and reported to the Board of Directors.

Refers to a situation when a cat or dog has bitten a person and broken skin and the animal is exhibiting symptoms associated with rabies, specifically neurologic. In these cases euthanasia with submission of sample for rabies testing is required by law.