Scott, K. E., Bracchi, L. A., Lieberman, M. T. et al. 2017. Evaluation of best practices for the euthanasia of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). JAALAS 56(6), 802-806.
Although zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) have been used in biomedical research for many years, no published reports are available about euthanizing these small birds. In this study, we compared 5 methods for zebra finch euthanasia: sodium pentobarbital (NaP) given intracoelomically with physical restraint but no anesthesia; isoflurane anesthesia followed by intracoelomic injection of NaP; and CO2 asphyxiation at 20%, 40%, and 80% chamber displacement rates (percentage of chamber volume per minute). Birds undergoing euthanasia were videorecorded and scored by 2 observers for behaviors potentially related to discomfort or distress. Time to recumbency and time until respiratory arrest (RA) were also assessed. RA was achieved faster by using NaP in a conscious bird compared to using isoflurane anesthesia followed by NaP; however, neither method caused behaviors that might affect animal welfare, such as open-mouth breathing, to any appreciable extent. Among the CO2 treatment groups, there was an inverse correlation between the chamber displacement rate used and the duration of open-mouth breathing, onset of head retroflexion, and time to RA. The results demonstrate that the intracoelomic administration of NaP in an awake, restrained zebra finch is a rapid and effective method of euthanasia. If CO2 is used to euthanize these birds, a high displacement rate (for example, 80%) will minimize the duration of the procedure and associated behaviors.