Wolf Song of Alaska News

Not Euthanasia

Letters / Juneau Empire / August 24, 2008


Letter to the editor

The recent My Turn by Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd explored some "misunderstandings" about recent predator control actions taken by the department, including the "euthanasia" of 14 wolf pups. Lloyd states that euthanasia was done according to standards set by the state's Animal Care and Use Committee and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

I respectfully disagree with his characterization of forcibly evicting wolf pups from their den and killing them, known as "denning," as euthanasia.

As a veterinarian and a long time member of the AVMA, I am very familiar with the AVMA standards. To quote the current AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia: "The term euthanasia is derived from the Greek terms 'eu' meaning good and 'thanatos' meaning death. A "good death" would be one that occurs with minimal pain and ... is distress free as possible. In all circumstances, the euthanasia method should be selected and used with the highest ethical standards and social conscience."

The preferred method of euthanasia involves using anesthetics and narcotics. These injectable drugs are available to biologists. Gunshot to the head is "conditionally approved" if other options are not available. Regarding wildlife, the AVMA guidelines state, "Conditions found in the field, although more challenging than those that are controlled, do not in any way reduce or minimize the ethical obligation of the responsible individual to reduce pain and distress to the greatest extent possible during the taking of the animal's life. Handling these animals often requires general anesthesia, which provides loss of consciousness and which relieves distress, anxiety, apprehension, and perception of pain."

The department has refused to release details as to how the denning, a long-banned practice, was carried out. Known methods include digging, smoke, flooding, or the use of hooks.

I recognize that department biologists have a difficult job, particularly in terms of predator control. But this denning action should have been avoided with better timing, and certainly does not qualify as euthanasia in my assessment nor according to my reading of the guidance of the AVMA. I also believe that aerial predator control, if it must be done, should be restricted and carried out by state personnel only, and so I will be voting yes on ballot measure 2.

Vic Walker
Juneau AK

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