Who is responsible for horse welfare?

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10 Oct 2009 13:34
The pony has been put down, which was inevitable, it was a mercy, but it had to suffer for three weeks. The owner shed a large volume of tears two weeks after the incident, then the pony had to wait till the slaughterhouse came, ...apparently she could not afford a vet to give it treatment/sedation), it struggled out on three legs to the slaughterhouse lorry. I was glad it was all over. There was blood on the ground, I was upset, the farmer had tears in his eyes, my pony and my yearling were upset.
06 Oct 2009 19:47
There are two factors arising from these posts, one is moral responsibility - generally the owner.
The second is legal responsibility -
1) if a field or stable is exclusively rented/leased, then the renter may declare that he has no further involvement.
2) if he rents a field as suitable for a pony, then he accepts some responsibility for fencing and watering of the field.
3) If a someone is offered grass livery for ponies, then, my understanding is, that the person offering grass livery becomes the legal keeper, generally, the rent is specified per week or month. This person is responsible for day to day care and is the person who will be the primary contact in the case of welfare. He will have to accept responsibility for neglect, so he should ensure that the owner has a written agreement accepting responsibility for any bills necessarily incurred.
I am currently in grass livery (not DIY) ... I advised my vet over the phone, that the keeper could ask for advice and treatment, and that i would pay the bills, and I advised the keeper of this.
PS I have worked for a local authority, believe me they do not have the expertise or the willpower to enforce anything unless it is clearly black and white, AND someone in the upper regions of politics is forcing them to do something: in general they employ people who are not equine professionals, and who do not "rock the boat"
Horse Hero Guru
06 Oct 2009 16:04
I disagree about who is legally responsible for animal welfare, Farrieress.

In the explanatory sections to the Act itself, note 17 states that "Responsibility for an animal is only intended to arise where a person can be said to have assumed responsibility for its day-to-day care or for its care for a specific purpose or by virtue of owning it. This will include a person who assumes responsibility for the animal temporarily (subsection (1)) such as, for example, a veterinary surgeon taking responsibility for the animals kept in his surgery overnight, staff at boarding premises, and staff at animal sanctuaries".

I would say that this means that the keeper of the horse (specifically a livery yard owner providing anything more than the rent of a stable and/or paddock) is legally - and morally - as responsible for a horse's welfare as is the owner. Since the livery yard owner is a professional, earning money for the services provided, they should be consequently expected to have graeter knowledge and therefore responsibility, than the owner.
06 Oct 2009 12:15
The people responsible for horse welfare are the horse owners, any legal keeper has partial responsibility but under law it is the owner who is responsible.

Local government have animal welfare inspectors who are appointed under the Animal Welfare act 2006 and those responsible for enforcing the act and have powers under the act are the local authority inspectors and police constables, which is why charities usually have police present if they visit a premisis.

I would advise anyone if they have any welfare concerns to contact the welfare department of their local authority or a local charity, is i would rather go out and only have to give advice than go out and have to seize because nobody wanted to stick their neck out and voice their concerns earlier and the horse ends up in a very poor state.

What you did by voicing your concerns was very brave as i appreciate it is difficult when your on the same yard, how it was handled is another matter.
10 Sep 2009 09:02
Thank Guru, you are correct in all you say of course, the problem i have just endured has led to me being told to leave the yard where i keep my ponies.
"Who is responsible" was intended as rhetorical, but i think you were correct to spell it out.
A pony had broken down(this had happened before) and was stabled, i gave it a little pat on Monday and a piece of apple, saw that it had a bandage on the affected leg, which i felt had not been put on by a vet.
On Tuesday the same bandage was evident and there was considerable swelling on the shoulder, the pony had two empty buckets but no water(obviously i gave it water)
Instead of discussing this with the farmer (my mistake) who is the legal keeper (as he was later to remind me) i phoned one of the girls who keeps her pony at the yard, and who usually knows what is going on. She works for the SSPCA and is at the yard every day, this lady must have something against me (i have no idea why), she said she thought the pony was being treated and all was ok, she advised me to ring the SSPCA hotline if i was unhappy.
She then phoned the farmer and said i had complained (professional -- NO)
As far as i can make out, within an hour or so a vet was out at the pony and it had sedatives.
I then had the farmer on the phone saying i had complained to the SSPCA without discussing the case with him ( i agree that i should have done this).
So now i have to find new accommodation for my ponies, which is very difficult, plus a major traumatic experience for me, i am thinking of giving up as it seems that people are so antagonistic to each other. I have to say that the standard of care on the yard is generally OK to average, and that it is mostly the owners who neglect their responsibilities, buying ponies then sending them off to a farm, and not following up with farrier, feed etc as necessary for the individuals.
I agree with all HHG says about breeding ponies which are then sold as foals or yearling at any price, mostly to peeps with little knowledge or understanding of costs and work involved.
Horse Hero Guru
09 Sep 2009 12:48
Hi Jo

In response to the first question, we are ALL responsible for horse welfare, from the moment we decide to breed a horse (or allow a horse to breed) to the time that it dies. Whether the responsibility is that of the owner of a horse, of charities who raise money to care for animals or to the whole of society , where it is accepted that animals are either the tools of production tools or little more than cuddly toys, is a philosophical argument that can take as long as you like.

However, lets consider your specific comments about what happens when someone tries to do something about a horse they consider to be abused or ill.

The police as a general rule have little or no knowledge of animals, let alone horses, so will correctly pass any question to suitable qualified bodies, be they charities or vets. I can se no problem with this – how can anyone who knows nothing about horses determine whether an animal is ill or at risk?

A charity is basically like any business organisation and can only function if it has the funds to do so. This means that many of the people connected with a charity are fundraisers only. Once they have raised the money, the charity operates in the way it was set up, which, in the case of the main charities, is to identify the problem with a suspected welfare case and ensure that it is solved, whether through advice and help or court proceedings. Most of this work is and can be done by ‘office‘ staff, but a qualified vet would undertake the assessment of a horse’s physical well-being. If it was a case of suspected child abuse you would expect a qualified doctor to undertake any assessment, so surely a vet is the appropriate qualified person to determine the physical state of a horse? If we want the best person to deal with each aspect of a case we are going to have to use a team of people with appropriate qualifications and skills. If that is a lawyer or a vet, so be it.

Who do you want to be responsible for deciding whether a horse is ill or in danger? Many members of the general public have no idea about animals and will be concerned about matters that are perfectly normal (yes, a neighbour once telephoned me to say that a pony was ill because it was stretching out its back to urinate – she said it was alright though, she had just mown her lawn so she was keeping it happy by feeding it grass clippings). Of course it needs to be a qualified professional person who makes a decision about whether there is or is not a problem..

You next state that vets are too busy prolonging an animal’s life and getting paid to do so. At the moment decisions about putting an animal to sleep rest with the owner. A vet can advise, but cannot force, an owner to have an animal euthanased. If the owner does not take that advice, should the vet refuse to treat it anymore? Should they undertake further treatment free of charge?

Surely the people you should be concerned about are those who “love their horse too much” to have it put to sleep at the appropriate time. It has been discussed on this site www.horsehero.com/1747/9156.

Surely the problem with equine welfare actually comes down to the people who breed unwanted horses, those who keep horses and then are not prepared to accept that their responsibility includes ensuring that a horse has a good end of life as well.

It is obvious from reading your posting that someone/something has annoyed you greatly. Do you want to expand on that?
08 Sep 2009 18:53
I don't know who is responsible for horse welfare, but i can assure you that its not the designated charities: on the two occasions in my life, when i have tried to communicate with these charities re a horse's welfare, i have been thrown off the yard for causing disruption.
The charities do not listen to what i say, and immediately rush out to the premises and cause chaos in spite of my request that i talk to a senior executive before they do so.
It appears that the police will immediately pass responsibility to the charity, when in fact there are laws regarding horse welfare.
It appears that the charity will pass responsibility to a vet (who is paid by someone responsible for the horse).
In general, I have gradually lost faith in those vets who appear to me more concerned with prolonging an animals life (and extracting loads of money in many cases), than in the welfare of that animal, I understand that it is difficult to advise an owner to put an animal down, but that is transient, and causes no further suffering.
I hope this posting will be allowed to stand as written, written in anger and with emotion!!!!



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