Strategic Objectives

Euthanasia in Horses



In view of an incident involving the euthanasia of a horse by a hand gun and consequently an accident with a neighbouring horse and carriage which resulted in an investigation, Council reviewed euthanasia in horses in S A in consultation with the Equine Practitioners Group (EPG) of the SAVA.  Although the review revealed that the use of the hand gun is the most common means of euthanasia used by veterinarians, Council lifts for your information recognised methods of euthanasia in horses with no particular preference.

The use of a captive bolt is a safe option for both the user and bystanders. There is no stray bullet if the horse suddenly moves its head. The captive bolt when used correctly has worked effectively, with minor paddling. The carcase need not be disposed of, but can be used by animal farms and zoos. The captive bolt is not completely silent, but a silencer can be fitted. It may not be easy to fire a second shot if the aim has been slightly off target. The horse has to be exsanguinated after the use of the captive bolt. The method is regarded as a cumbersome method not suitable for use at a race track, particularly by an inexperienced person. The initial outlay in purchasing a captive bolt is high, at present ± R5 800 plus VAT. The captive bolt is readily available in South Africa and is mainly used by abattoirs.

Euthanasia by means of the "Vets assistant" Cash 32 pistol is an effective method for any size of animal. It is reliable when needed for casualty euthanasia and available anywhere at any time. The pistol as opposed to the captive bolt can be held at a distance, however the animal should be kept perfectly still. This is a useful method designed for veterinarians and authorised animal welfare assistants. It is easy to use and has a safety mechanism in that it has only one bullet, one chamber and one trigger and eliminates confusion in stressful situations. The carcase can be used by animal farms and zoos. The pistol requires minimum maintenance due to effective design. The initial cost is high and a silencer is not recommended. The pistol has only recently entered the South African market, but is widely used in the UK.

The use of a hand gun (free projectile) is a quick and effective method to euthanase a horse. It is an economical method, easy to use and the instrument has other uses too. The carcase need not be disposed of, but can be used by animal farms and zoos. It is a silent method, if a silencer is fitted. It is not a safe option for the user and bystanders if the free projectile is off target, the horse suddenly moves or an inexperienced person attempts it. If the hand gun is used without a silencer it could become a dangerous method for those in the surrounding area who are unaware that a horse is being euthanased. This method seems to be widely used by veterinarians in private practice.

Euthanasia by chemical means (Euthanase schedule 6) is a safe method for the user and bystanders, if used correctly. It is a silent method and regarded as a more sophisticated method to euthanase horses. It could be a more expensive method, at present 100ml @ ± R40, the carcase needs to be disposed of and cannot be used by animal farms or zoos.  It is not known at this stage whether this method is widely used and supported by veterinarians.

(Published- December 1998)

Links to African Council websites

Veterinary Statutory Bodies in Africa

Veterinary Council of Namibia

Veterinary Council of Zimbabwe (department of livestock and veterinary services)

Kenya Veterinary Board

Veterinary Council of Tanzania

Botswana Veterinary Association

You are here: Home About Council Strategic Objectives SAVC Policies Policies - Euthanasia in Horses