AAEP to release welfare guidelines for rescue groups ...

March 1, 2004
By: Stephanie Davis
DVM Newsmagazine

Dr. Tom Lenz

Pending passage of a congressional bill to ban horse slaughter (H.R. 857), the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) is lending horse rescue and retirement facilities an official head start on caregiving.

By way of inking shelter-specific animal welfare guidelines, AAEP plans to ensure such facilities have backup plans in case they're faced with an influx of unwanted horses no longer in line for slaughter.

The forthcoming guidelines - a rough sketch of welfare guides the AAEP drew up for the American Horse Council (AHC) two years ago - directly correlate with the slaughter bill in an effort to reach out to rescue and retirement facilities.

"As more and more horses are turned over to those facilities, we're a little bit concerned that you'll end up with these mom and pop outfits that have a kind heart but don't know much about taking care of horses," says Dr. Tom Lenz, outgoing AAEP president.

With the new rules, Lenz adds, "Our goal is to be the voice of reason. Everybody tends to push these issues on emotion."

Although the guides aren't due out until this summer and AAEP would not offer

specifics, Lenz did say they're expected to focus primarily on geriatric care, because many horses at these facilities are older. AAEP will address reasonable regulations to ensure appropriate care. The guides are expected to cover such areas of care as proper housing, nutrition and veterinary care.

AVMA in accord

Coinciding with AAEP's guidelines, Lenz, who also serves on the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) animal welfare committee, says the national organization recently inked its own position statement on the horse
slaughter issue, reinforcing AAEP's previously released statements on horse slaughter. (See related sidebar, this page.)

Lenz says AVMA's position addresses points of contention with the bill, suggesting that, if specific points were properly changed, they would support the bill.

To rescue or euthanize

When questioned why AAEP anticipates an increase in the number of horses dumped at rescue facilities as opposed to a potential increase in the number of euthanasias, AAEP says it has no guarantee of which incidence is more likely to occur.

Lenz, however, did say in regard to rescue facilities: "We don't know that there actually will be an increase, but we do know there is more discussion and activity amongst horse groups and the public to develop retirement and rescue facilities, and so we anticipate with that movement that there may be more if  the bill passes."

Even if the crop-up of retirement facilities is only a figment of organizations' imaginations, Lenz says the guidelines will still be
written. "We think it's a good idea to have these guides in place, because it's not uncommon to see a rescue facility where horses aren't being taken care of properly. You have good intentioned people who just don't understand proper horse husbandry and medical care."