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Freezing Reptiles

Freezing Reptiles Was Once Considered A humane Method Of Euthanasia.

Freezing Reptiles - Euthanasia

Freezing Reptiles - Euthanasia

For years the topic of euthanasia has been discussed among the reptile community. One topic that seems to always arise is the use of freezing a reptile as a means of euthanasia. It was believed that since reptiles were cold-blooded they would simply drift off into a hibernative sleep until their organs or brain froze them to death. Many of us, myself included, accepted this as truth and practiced it when required. Science and information has come a long way and new information has come to light through medical research and peer reviews by educated veterinarians. It is now believed that painful ice crystals form while the reptile is not only conscience but is completely immobile and aware of what is happening. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians has classified freezing reptiles as animal abuse. It is also listed as an inhumane means of euthanasia.

Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society

The following excerpt appeared in the December 2006 issue of the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society newsletter as part of the "Ask the Dr" column.

Note: This response simply states what The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians has already tested scientifically and have adopted as a medical practice. This practice has been adopted by veterinarians as it is backed with scientific evidence and has been peer reviewed.

"Chilling a herp to death is an awful way to die, and, could they speak, they would describe it as torture. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians classify this as cruel treatment of animals and animal abuse and the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians categorize it as an unacceptable method of euthanasia, as well. If a veterinarian recommended this to you, it could be categorized as malpractice.

Unfortunately, the myth that freezing herps is a good way to put them down persists. It almost makes sense, being that reptiles and amphibians are “cold-blooded”, but in fact, this adaptation makes this procedure even worse for them. This is because as they get cold, they become torporous, that is, alert mentally but unable to move or respond. This is in contrast to mammals, which become unable to move, but also become mentally dull and comatose as they become hypothermic. As a result, reptiles and amphibians can feel their body get cold, which produces pain, but they can do nothing about it. Studies show that they can, literally, feel their cells freeze and rupture as they get further chilled, sensing pain as intensely as if they were being burned alive, but unable to move or respond.

What defines an acceptable method of euthanasia? Simply put, it must be a method that provides a safe, painless form of death. Additionally, it should be quick and effective, not allowing the animal to suffer either mentally or physically. The most common and accepted form is a single intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital, an anesthetic drug that when given at an overdose amount, stops the brain, heart and lungs. Alternative methods include rapid decapitation (this must take less than 1/10 of a second to be painless, such as with a cleaver or sharp axe), pithing, or exsanguination. The latter two of these require pre-euthanasia anesthesia to prevent suffering, and it is recommended for the first, as well."[2]

Below is a chart on recommended techniques for reptilian euthanasia.

Legend

* Sedation or anesthesia is recommended in difficult-to-handle animals.
Surgical anesthesia is necessary before some forms of euthanasia such as deep freezing, potassium chloride injection, decapitation, or exsanguination.
Pithing, concussion, or captive-bolt stun gun or firearm. Exsanguination immediately after brain destruction is recommended before dressing the carcass is commenced.

Recommended Techniques for Reptilian Euthanasia* [1]

Lizards

  • Deep Freezing †:
  • <40 g
  • Chemical †:
  •   Yes
  • Topical:
  •   No
  • Inhalant:
  •   Yes
  • Physical † ‡:
  •   Yes

Snakes

  • Deep Freezing †:
  • <40 g
  • Chemical †:
  •   Yes
  • Topical:
  •   No
  • Inhalant:
  •   Yes
  • Physical † ‡:
  •   Yes

Chelonians

  • Deep Freezing †:
  • <40 g
  • Chemical †:
  •   Yes
  • Topical:
  •   No
  • Inhalant:
  •   No
  • Physical † ‡:
  •   Yes

Crocodilians

  • Deep Freezing †:
  • No
  • Chemical †:
  • Yes
  • Topical:
  • No
  • Inhalant:
  • No
  • Physical † ‡:
  • Yes

Amphibians

  • Deep Freezing †:
  • <40 g
  • Chemical †:
  •   Yes
  • Topical:
  •   Yes
  • Inhalant:
  •   No
  • Physical † ‡:
  •   Yes
 

While the freezer may sound like a quick and painless way to end the life of an already suffering reptile, it is anything but painless. If you must put an animal down you should have a qualified vet do it for you. After all, you are looking to end the suffering of the reptile aren't you?

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself on this topic and talk with your veterinarian. There are still people who attempt to claim that freezing reptiles is acceptable. These people are simply justifying their own behaviors and have no scientific evidence to substantiate their claims. If these people knew what they were talking about, they would be veterinarians and wouldn't be posting from their cell phones or personal computers. Their information would be published, peer reviewed and accepted by the medical community. The medical community has done the science behind this information, which is why it has been adopted as common practice to not freeze reptiles as a form of euthanasia and that it is in fact, inhumane and painful.

If you listen to fools, you become a fool yourself. ~ Richard Brooks

Attribution

Author: Richard Brooks
[1] Mader, Douglas. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. SE Saunders, 2006. (p.565)
[2] Maas, Adolf. (2006) Freezing reptiles as a form of euthanasia.