• 15 May 2015

Team Blog: Can the veterinary community help to combat the equine welfare crisis?

It is undeniable that the UK is currently in the midst of a desperate equine welfare crisis. The charities and rescue centres are overwhelmed and we are seeing ever increasing numbers of horses being advertised as free to a good home and given away with little or no consideration for their future.

What we need to do, as part of the larger equine community, is look at ways in which we can increase awareness of what future belies many of the horses and ponies that end up in the midst of the crisis and also offer incentives for owners to do the responsible thing. With the cost of having a horse put to sleep ranging from £150 to £700 and sometimes even more depending on location, method and ease of disposal, owners are simply unable to afford to do the responsible thing. It is my belief that we need to be more inclusive in how all of us, as members of the equine community, attempt to tackle the issue by helping the owners faced with this decision.

Following years of working with various welfare agencies, vets and the police on numerous welfare cases, the subjects of emotion and cost have stood out as the two major factors in determining whether a horse will be humanely euthanised or given away. The cold face of the welfare crisis today means that there are just not enough homes, let alone responsible and experienced ones, to help all of the horses that are no longer wanted. We need solutions and we need all sectors of the equine industry to get on board with this.

I believe that the veterinary community can get involved in trying to help owners make the responsible decision and there are a few possible ways of doing this.

Reduced call out fee for non-emergency euthanasia.

Monthly or bi-monthly euthanasia days, whereby overall cost is reduced per client by booking euthanasia on a pre-set day determined by the veterinary practice.

The use of social media to highlight any reduced costs.

Advising owners of the often lower cost of using services provided by local hunts and knackermen.

 Spreading the word that a humane death is not the worst fate that can befall a horse.

There would obviously be some form of initial financial impact by offering reduced fees for euthanasia, however, if it can be made more accessible to more horse owners, the use of the service would likely increase, thereby mitigating any initial losses. We could also see the general perception of the veterinary community improve through the efforts to assist owners in such difficult times, strengthening the relationships between equine vets and their clients. 

There is no easy way to end or even make a dent in the current welfare crisis, but if we can all pull together to try and reduce the burden on owners, we may be able to develop a situation that see’s more horses humanely euthanised and less horses entering the cycle of neglect, abuse and abandonment.


Cheryl Bray,

EVPN Sales Manager