Anesthetizing the Public Conscience: Lethal Injection and Animal Euthanasia

40 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2008 Last revised: 5 Aug 2008

See all articles by Ty Alper

Ty Alper

University of California, Berkeley


Lawyers challenging lethal injection on behalf of death row inmates have frequently argued that lethal injection protocols do not comport with standard practices for the euthanasia of animals. This article studies state laws governing animal euthanasia and concludes that many more states than have previously been recognized ban the use of paralyzing agents in animal euthanasia. In fact, 97.6% of lethal injection executions in this country have taken place in states that have banned, for use in animal euthanasia, the same drugs that are used in those states during executions. Moreover, a study of the legislative history of state euthanasia laws reveals that the concerns raised about paralyzing drugs in the animal euthanasia context are identical in many ways to the concerns that lawyers for death row inmates are currently raising about the use of those drugs in the lethal injection executions of human beings. This article takes an in depth look at animal euthanasia and its relationship to lethal injection by examining in Part I the history and origins of the paralyzing drugs that veterinarians and animal welfare experts refuse to allow in animal euthanasia; in Part II the standards of professional conduct for veterinary and animal shelter professionals; in Part III, the state laws and regulations governing animal euthanasia; and finally in Part IV, the legislative history that led to the enactment of the various states' animal euthanasia laws and regulations.

Keywords: death penalty, lethal injection, animal euthanasia, capital punishment

Suggested Citation

Alper, Ty, Anesthetizing the Public Conscience: Lethal Injection and Animal Euthanasia. Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 35, May 2008, Available at SSRN:

Ty Alper (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

School of Law
346 North Addition
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-643-7849 (Phone)
510-643-4625 (Fax)


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