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Horse Euthanasia

We ensure that the welfare of your horse or pony always comes first.

Phone (01423) 862121 to book an appointment or find out more.

Regardless of the circumstances euthanasia is almost always a difficult subject to contemplate. However, if you are well aware in advance of the options available and the costs involved, you will be better able to make the correct decision for you and your horse or pony when this choice has to be faced.

Is your horse or pony insured?

If you have an insurance policy that provides cover for the death of your horse, then you need to make sure that you comply with the terms of your policy. Most insurance companies will require that the BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association) guidelines have been followed.

If you intend to make an insurance claim following the death of your horse then it is important that you tell your veterinary surgeon before your horse is euthanased. Depending on the individual circumstances, it may be necessary to perform a post mortem examination and keep samples of tissue from your horse. In less urgent cases you may need to get the agreement of your insurance company or a second opinion before euthanasia.

If you do not comply with the conditions of your insurance policy, then your insurance company are unlikely to pay your claim. If your horse has already been euthanased and the body removed before you make your vet aware that you intend to claim, then it will usually be too late to provide the insurance company with all of the facts that they will require.

Location

Unless it is an emergency situation you can decide on the location for putting your horse or pony to sleep.

At home involves the least disturbance to the horse as it will remain in familiar surroundings. There is time to plan and make sure that access to the field or stable yard is suitable for all vehicles. Try to warn other people at the yard of what is happening and when. To ease a sensitive situation we will attend at anti social hours if fewer people will be around.

You can stay with your horse or pony while we put it to sleep or you can arrange for a friend or representative to be present to hold the horse. Many owners are not sure whether they should remain with their horse during euthanasia. It can be a very distressing time. This decision can only be made by the individual.

There are two methods of putting horses and ponies to sleep

Lethal injection

The horse is injected into the vein in its neck with a lethal overdose of anaesthetic drug. A sedative may be given prior to the injection. The horse collapses and loses consciousness. For a little while some involuntary movements and breathing may occur even though the heart has stopped beating. The vet will always ensure your horse’s or pony’s heart has stopped beating.

Shooting

This is very quick and does not involve needles – a problem if your horse is needle shy. As with the lethal injection, there will be some involuntary movements and obviously some bleeding will occur from the head. This is quite normal.

Arrangements for afterwards

If your horse has been given any drugs, which not only include lethal injection but also routine drugs such as painkillers, you will have to have the horse cremated, collected under the National Fallen Stock scheme (tel: 0845 8507070) or possibly buried (see note on burial). Cremation is widely used but can be expensive. Individual cremations can be arranged and the ashes returned to you if you wish.

If your horse or pony has not received any drugs then other organisations, such as the local hunt, can collect the body if you wish.

Conclusion

The death of your pony or horse is not a subject that most people like to think about. Nevertheless, it is important to consider what you will do and to plan ahead so that you will be able to cope with any eventuality. Please talk to your vet or the reception staff at the practice if you require any further information. They will also be able to assist you by making all the necessary arrangements should euthanasia be required, co-ordinating the veterinary surgeon and the cremation staff.

Note on burial:

The European Union Animal By-Products Regulation, which banned the routine on-farm burial and burning of animal carcasses, came into force on 1 May 2003. English legislation giving local authorities powers to enforce the Regulation came into effect on 1 July. The Regulation allows Member States to apply for various derogations regarding the disposal of animal by-products, and, amongst others, the Government has applied for the derogation to permit the burial of deceased pet animals, including horses. Horse owners with queries about burying specific horses as 'pets' should contact their local authority (usually Trading Standards), who will be able to give pragmatic advice on the most appropriate method of disposal, on a case by case basis. This advice may be sought prior to the death of the animal to allow for timely arrangements to be made.

Please click here for more information on the Animal By-Products legislation and the National Fallen Stock Scheme.