By Laura Kenny
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has released new guidelines pertaining to rendering livestock remains that were euthanized using sodium pentobarbital. The issue is that pentobarbital is not broken down by the rendering process and is still present in the byproducts of the process. These byproducts are typically nutritious ingredients which can used in commercial feeds and pet foods, but if they are contaminated with pentobarbital, they can sicken the animals eating the food. It was already prohibited to render an animal euthanized with pentobarbital into commercial feeds and pet foods (however, rendering is allowed if the byproducts are not used for any feed ingredients, so some rendering facilities can legally take horses euthanized with pentobarbital). In recent years, the federal Food and Drug Administration and PDA have identified pentobarbital in pet food traced back to rendering products, meaning that these animals were still being rendered despite the prohibition. In addition, there have been several recent cases in Pennsylvania where domestic animals and wildlife have been poisoned by scavenging livestock carcasses euthanized with pentobarbital.
The new rule, effective November 21, 2020, is that any animal euthanized with pentobarbital must be marked as such by the administering veterinarian with a “P” painted on the head, body, and the legs/hooves marked with paint. Unfortunately, there has been a “don’t ask, don’t tell incentive” when livestock are euthanized with pentobarbital because many companies will not pick up or charge more for carcasses. The obligatory marking should encourage social responsibility and regardless of “don’t ask, don’t tell incentive” should lessen the odds of such animals entering the rendering or processing pipeline to produce any commercial feed or pet food products in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
How does this affect horse owners?
This rule does not change much for horse owners, as rendering for processing into commercial feeds and pet foods was already not an option for horses euthanized with pentobarbital. It may make rendering a rarer or more expensive option for remains disposal. The new rule simply requires veterinarians to mark the horse's remains. It does mean that horse owners may need to choose an alternative method of remains disposal after euthanasia, or an alternative form of euthanasia. It is recommended to make these decisions before they are needed.
Alternatives to rendering include burial, composting, incineration, and landfill. If rendering is still desired, then the animal can be euthanized using other drugs or other approved humane methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and delivered by a well-trained and experienced person and with proper precautions in place.Source : psu.edu