One of the most important goals for any pet owner is to ensure that his or her beloved companion enjoys a long and healthy life. For this reason, many families lavish medical care on their pets that is very close to what they themselves expect from a modern hospital. However, there comes a time when they may be forced to consider humanely euthanizing their pet.
When that day comes, pet owners depend on skilled euthanasia technicians to ensure that their pet is painlessly and comfortably euthanized, making the certified euthanasia technician an important component of any veterinary practice.
The Duties of a Euthanasia Technician
Euthanasia technicians are responsible for ensuring that animals are painlessly euthanized in such a way as to minimize any fear or discomfort they might feel. The reasons for euthanization may include the following:
- Elderly pets that are in chronic pain or discomfort.
- Injured animals that cannot be effectively treated.
- Abandoned animals. However, some organizations such as “no kill” shelters, do not euthanize otherwise healthy animals that have been abandoned.
- Animals that have incurable diseases, such as cancer or in some cases, dangerous infectious diseases such as rabies.
When carrying out a euthanization, the technician must also be prepared to handle the following situations:
- Animals that are panicked or in pain may struggle, requiring the technician to effectively and comfortably immobilize them.
- Animals with infectious disease may require measures to be taken to protect the technician and other bystanders from exposure to blood or other bodily fluids.
- The technician will have to ensure that the drug dosage used to euthanize the animal is properly prepared for the animal’s size and weight.
- The technician will have to keep complete and accurate records of every euthanization in order to demonstrate that the animal was properly euthanized.
- The technician will have to ensure that the animal’s body is disposed of in accordance with state and local regulations. This is especially important for those animals that may pose a risk of infection to other animals or humans.
Finally, euthanasia technicians commonly handle a variety of narcotic drugs as part of their daily duties. Most states have strict record keeping and storage requirements for these materials and a technician must ensure that they are properly secured in order to avoid the theft of the drugs. In many cases, the technician will have to submit to periodic audits, either by his employer or the state, to ensure that all euthanasia drugs are accounted for.
Working with Pets and Owners During the Euthanasia Process
In every case, the technician must work to ensure that the animal is treated in a respectful way during the process of euthanization. In addition, due to the very traumatic nature of the event for many pet owners, the technician must be prepared to deal with the owners in a sensitive and understanding way before, during and after the procedure.
It is not uncommon for pet owners, especially those who are young or who have children who will miss the pet, to become very distraught at the thought of having to euthanize a beloved pet who may have been their companion for decades.
Because of this, the technician must be prepared to reassure the owners that their decision will spare their pet from further pain and suffering, as well as ensure that the process of euthanasia is properly handled. In some cases, the technician may have to delay the process while the owners make their final farewells.
Becoming a Euthanasia Technician
The requirements for becoming a euthanasia tech vary from state to state. In some states, no certification is required or only certified vet techs or veterinarians may euthanize pets, while in other states, certification is mandatory.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) maintains up to date information on the various state requirements for becoming a euthanasia technician, as well as including contact information for the state licensing boards. An individual interested in becoming a euthanasia technician should always consult with his or her state licensing board to ensure that there have been no changes to the relevant state policies regarding euthanasia technicians.
For those states that require training to become a certified euthanasia technician (CET), the candidate must complete a variety of steps. In most cases, those steps will include the following activities:
- Complete a state approved course on performing the duties of a euthanasia technician. These courses include a variety of subjects including the legal, professional and moral responsibilities of a euthanasia technician. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer these courses to interested students.
- In some states, the student must then pass a state administered exam in order to demonstrate his or her practical and academic qualifications.
- Finally, many states require euthanasia technicians to regularly renew their certification and obtain a certain amount of continuing education units in order to retain their certification.
Employment Opportunities for Euthanasia Technicians
There are a number of career opportunities open to qualified euthanasia technicians. In many cases, these careers may be with state or non-profit organizations, in addition to traditional veterinary practices.
Due to the increasing number of abandoned or injured animals that are found every year, many public humane societies must euthanize some of their animals and require a qualified technician. Depending on the humane society’s location and the abandoned or injured animal population, the euthanasia technician may be employed full-time or have other duties in addition to providing euthanasia services.
In addition, wildlife management programs often include a component of euthanizing pest animals, especially foreign animals that are putting the local environment or other endangered species at risk. In this case, euthanasia techs may work in the field or at a facility helping to humanely euthanize captured animals. This specialty may also require the technician to work with animals who may have infectious diseases, such as rabies. In these cases, the technician must also be familiar with how to safely euthanize an animal without exposing him or herself to the disease.
The Importance of Euthanasia Technicians
The end of a pet’s life is one of the hardest parts of being a pet owner. As a part of this process, euthanasia techs provide an extremely important service, ensuring that an animal, whether it is a lifetime companion or an ill stray that has been brought into a humane shelter, is treated with dignity in its last moments. Furthermore, by ensuring that the process of euthanasia is painless and comfortable, the technician can assist the human family of the pet in making their final farewells to their companion animal.
The certified euthanasia technician is a profession that is a vital one in the veterinary sector. When all other measures fail, the euthanasia technician allows the animal to depart with dignity even as he or she eases the pain of the pet’s owners. Whether working in a veterinarian’s office, or as part of a local animal shelter, the euthanasia technician serves a vital and humane role in the pet care sector.