Succinylcholine chloride is a drug described as “a skeletal muscle relaxant used as an adjunct to anesthesia, to reduce muscle contractions during surgery or mechanical ventilation and to facilitate endotracheal intubation”. I interpret this to mean that, in the proper dosage, the drug will relax the patient enough to allow an anesthetic breathing tube to be placed in the throat.
On page 21 of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines on Euthanasia there is mention of the drug in reference to stranded marine mammals:
For stranded whales or other large cetaceans or pinnipeds, succinylcholine chloride in conjunction with potassium chloride, administered intravenously or intraperitoneally, has been used. This method, which is not an acceptable method of euthanasia as defined in these guidelines, leads to complete paralysis of the respiratory musculature and eventual death attributable to hypoxemia. This method may be more humane than allowing the stranded animal to suffocate over a period of hours or days if no other options are available. [emphasis added]
In 2009, The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners suspended the license of a vet who was using succinylcholine chloride to euthanize animals.
This week, the state of Indiana ordered a halt to pet killings by means of controlled substances at the Cass Co Humane Society after a former ACO went to the local news:
The Cass County Humane Society was first brought to the attention of 6News’ Joanna Massee by former animal control Officer Nikki DeChamps, who said animals were euthanized with a drug that causes them extreme pain and panic — succinylcholine chloride.
“Within seconds after you give them the injection, they appear to be in terrible, terrible, intense pain and agony,” DeChamps said.
It turns out that the shelter doesn’t have a license for controlled substances.
Cass County Humane Society President Dr. Chris Ciotta, a licensed veterinarian, said the drug is only used to immobilize animals in emergencies and denied it was ever used euthanize animals.
Ciotta said another drug, pentobarbital, is used for euthanasia, but it’s a controlled substance that the Cass County Humane Society isn’t licensed to use and never has been, Massee reported.
The state and federal Drug Enforcement Administration tightly control who has access to pentobarbital. Ciotta said he has the drug shipped to himself and gives it to the shelter, which is run by the Humane Society, for use.
“I’m providing the medications, so I’m overseeing it,” he said, admitting that he isn’t always there when the drug is administered. “It’s not a perfect world we live in. I can’t be here all the time.”
Gee, I hope that’s not the defense he’s planning to use with the feds.
Kim Kesler, the shelter director, was asked why the facility isn’t licensed for controlled substances. (I wouldn’t use her reply as a defense either.)
“I don’t think anybody even really looked into … or even really thought of it,” Kesler said[.]
In many states, it’s illegal to use succinylcholine chloride for euthanizing pets. Indiana is not one of those states. There is currently a bill in the SC General Assembly to make the use of succinylcholine chloride for shelter euthanasias illegal here. (The bill would outlaw the gas chamber as well.) Do you know where your state stands? Please share in the comments. Bonus point if you provide a link to the law.