Special Issue "The Ethics of Euthanasia of Companion Animals"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Ethics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 December 2022 | Viewed by 1895

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Gerald Neitzke
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute for Ethics, History and Philosophy of Medicine, Hannover Medical School (MHH), 30625 Hannover, Germany
Interests: medical ethics; end-of-life decisions; euthanasia
Prof. Dr. Peter Kunzman
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Farm Animal Behaviour, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, 30559 Hanover, Germany
Interests: medical ethics; end-of-life decisions; euthanasia

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Euthanasia is both a technique and a moral endeavor. In this Special Issue, the question of how to kill animals is deferred to the moral question, why and under which circumstances euthanasia can be justified. The veterinarian as a moral agent faces the decision, whether, when, why and how to kill a (companion) animal. Different value judgements arise among the team and, in comparison, with the owner. To shed light on the topic, a comparison between companion animals, farm animals, animals in a zoo, shelter animals, and even humans seems promising. Marginal cases (e.g., a horse as cattle or riding horse) can be helpful as litmus test for ethical considerations. Alternatives to euthanasia, such as animal hospice, gain significance and moral weight.

We invite both empirical and analytical paper submissions on any aspect of the ethics of euthanasia of animals. Medical, philosophical, legal and related views from different countries and cultural backgrounds are welcome. Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • What ethical challenges do veterinarians face in the context of euthanasia?
  • Are veterinary students adequately prepared for end-of-life decisions?
  • Is euthanasia defined differently, depending, e.g., on the animal species or the human–animal relation at hand?
  • Might there be an alternative to the euthanasia of companion animals?
  • To what extent are different stakeholders involved in end-of-life decisions in veterinary medicine?
  • What basic assumptions regarding animal death are pivotal for euthanasia in veterinary practice?
  • What makes euthanasia different from other forms of killing animals?
  • In which cases is euthanasia justified in healthy animals?
  • Euthanasia for animals, but not for humans? Are animals treated more humanely than humans?
  • What can medical ethics learn from veterinary ethics regarding euthanasia (and vice versa)?
  • Is the quantity of life relevant to an animal when it comes to euthanasia?
  • Is quality of life relevant to an animal when it comes to euthanasia (e.g., hemiplegic animal in a wheelchair)?

Dr. Gerald Neitzke
Prof. Dr. Peter Kunzman
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • euthanasia
  • justification of killing
  • veterinary ethics
  • medical ethics
  • veterinarian
  • moral agency
  • end-of-life decisions
  • good death

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Low and No-Contact Euthanasia: Associated Ethical Challenges Experienced by Veterinary Team Members during the Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Animals 2022, 12(5), 560; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12050560 - 23 Feb 2022
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Background: During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many veterinary practices around the world have shifted to a low or no-contact consultation model to ensure the safety of their team members and clients, and comply with public health orders, while continuing to provide veterinary care. [...] Read more.
Background: During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many veterinary practices around the world have shifted to a low or no-contact consultation model to ensure the safety of their team members and clients, and comply with public health orders, while continuing to provide veterinary care. Methods: We performed reflexive thematic analysis on a subset of data collected using a mixed-methods survey of veterinary team members globally. Results: There were 540 valid responses available for analysis. Low and no-contact euthanasia we raised as a common and/or stressful ethical challenge for 22.8% of respondents. We identified five key themes: no-contact euthanasia as a unique ethical challenge; balancing veterinary team safety with the emotional needs of clients; low and no-contact protocols may cause or exacerbate fear, anxiety and distress in veterinary patients; physical distancing was more challenging during euthanasia consultations; and biosecurity measures complicated communication around euthanasia and end-of-life decision making. Recommendations: In light of concerns highlighted by respondents, we recommend the development of a toolkit of protocols that will assist veterinary team members in performing low-contact euthanasia in a range of circumstances, in alignment with their values and professional ethical codes. Professional bodies may be involved in developing, updating and disseminating this information, and ensuring a continuous supply chain of PPE. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Ethics of Euthanasia of Companion Animals)
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