Euthanasia Protocols
By Dr Mackie Hobson BSc(Agric),BVSc

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019

Angora goats are kept for their fibre and not for meat so goats are very seldom slaughtered on a farm. A producer may however be faced with one of the most difficult decisions to make as to when to end the suffering of a goat under his/her care.

One of the responsibilities of looking after an Angora goat is to ensure a humane death when suffering from an incurable painful disease or condition that necessitates euthanasia as in the best interests of that goat. Effective and humane methods of euthanasia which cause a quick and painless death must be used when there are no other alternatives to either prolong life or to limit pain.

Situations such as trauma resulting in the exposure of abdominal organs, open fractures of legs, terminal disease, violent or self-destructive trashing, incurable cancer or incurable disease causing suffering may indicate that euthanasia should be carried out.

  • There must be a minimum of stress and pain.
  • The procedure must be quick and result in a rapid loss of consciousness and death.
  • Only a trained and competent person or veterinarian should carry out the euthanasia.
  • The procedure should be carried out away from the view of other animals.
  • Handling and movement of the goat must be avoided when pain and suffering is worsened such as in cases of broken limbs.

The humane killing of animals should be performed by the following methods:


  1. Lethal injection performed by a veterinarian

When properly administered by the intravenous route, barbiturate overdose (sodium pentobarbital) depresses the central nervous system, causing deep anaesthesia that results in respiratory and cardiac arrest. This method of euthanasia results in minimal pain (needle puncture) sensation.

It is illegal for a non-veterinarian to possess injectable euthanasia products.

In extensive areas of the karoo a veterinarian may not be readily available. And other methods need to be considered.


  1. Pre-stunning using a captive bolt

Pre-stunning using a captive bolt pistol to render the goat unconscious and kills the goat followed by the cutting of the throat with a sharp knife of suitable length ensuring that the trachea (windpipe) and both carotid arteries are severed.

The captive bolt produces immediate brain tissue destruction that kills the goat.

The goat must be restrained and the penetrating captive bolt gun should be placed against the skull at the position described.

Or alternatively slightly behind the poll aimed toward the lower part of the chin.

An alternative position for placement of the penetrating captive bolt or firearm in horned animals is the front of the skull directing the bolt or bullet toward the spinal cord.


  1. Gunshot

A .22 caliber long rifle, 9mm or .38 caliber gun can be used.

The muzzle of the gun should be held 10-25 cm away from the skull when fired. The use of hollow-point or soft-nose bullets will increase brain tissue destruction and reduce the chance of ricochet. When performed skilfully, euthanasia by gunshot induces immediate unconsciousness.

This method should only be attempted by individuals trained in the use of firearms and who understand the potential for ricochet. Personnel must comply with all laws and regulations governing the possession and use of firearms

Heavily horned sheep and goats should be shot behind the poll, directing the shot in a path downward just behind the eyes and towards the nose.


  1. Emergency situations (exsanguination).

Stunning may only be omitted if the goat is in severe pain and accessing the stunning equipment would result in prolonged suffering.

Because severe anxiety is associated with the hypoxia (lack of oxygen) caused by exsanguination it must only be used in an emergency situations where prolonging life would cause intolerable suffering.

A long, sharp knife is fully inserted in the upper one third of the neck behind the angle of the jaw and directed toward the spinal column through the trachea, until bone is contacted. Successful severance of the carotids can be recognized by freely flowing, pulsing blood. This procedure is very disturbing to observers due to the large volume of blood loss. The spinal cord must not be severed or broken in any goat, until after death. All workers on the farm must be trained in case a situation of emergency slaughter does arise.


Confirmation of death is essential.

Death must be confirmed through observations of the

  • Heartbeat,
  • Respiration and
  • Pupil response. The pupils must be totally dilated.
  • Corneal reflex (blinking response), touch the animal’s cornea (surface of the eye); there should be no response to the touch if the animal is dead.


Immediately following the euthanasia method a period of muscle contraction (usually no longer than 20 seconds) may be observed. This will be followed by a period of relaxation and some poorly coordinated kicking or paddling movements. The animal must be monitored for 5 minutes to confirm death.


Dr Mackie Hobson BSc (Agric) BVSc




Responsible Mohair Standards (RMS)

Mohair SA, Sustainable Guidelines

Veterinary Medicine Extension School of Veterinary Medicine One Shields Avenue Davis,

Graphics taken from Procedures for Humane Euthanasia, J.K. Shearer and P. Nicoletti

© SA Mohair Growers - 2024 | Links | Euthanasia Protocols

Website Design and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by ZAWebs Designs | Web Hosting by ZAWebs Hosting