Decapitation of Reptiles
Inhumane for euthanasia
©1997 Melissa Kaplan
Decapitation is often times recommended as a humane and easy way to euthanize reptiles. Unfortunately, research indicates that this may not be the case. Clifford Warwick discusses it in Reptiles: Misunderstood, Mistreated and Mass-Marketed (1990; Nower Productions, UK). There are no references given in this booklet written for the carriage trade, but, as a biologist of some note, Warwick has written extensively on ethological* aspects of reptiles and using ethology to identify illness and stress in captivity.
Other references relating to decapitation include several in Frye (Reptile Care: An Atlas to Diseases and Treatments), and in Manual of Reptiles, the latter of which states:
Freezing is also often recommended as a method of euthanizing reptiles and other animals. In Manual of Reptiles, Lawton cites Cooper JE, Ewbank R, Platt C, and Warwick C. (1989, editors, Euthanasia of Amphibians and Reptiles, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Potters Bar), in regards to the painful formation of ice crystals in tissues and on skin, thus precluding hyperthermia as a method of euthanasia.
Frye states that pure carbon dioxide as a method of euthanizing reptiles is not acceptable as, while it induces a state of narcosis, the ability of many reptiles to endure prolonged anoxia (absence of oxygen) precludes death.
*ethology: The scientific and objective study of animal behavior especially under natural conditions.
Warwick, C. 1990. Important ethological and other considerations of the study and maintenance of reptiles in captivity. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 27(4):363-366.
Warwick, C. 1990. Reptilian ethology in captivity: Observations of some problems and an evaluation of their aetiology. Applied Animal Behavior Science 26:1-13.
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