Euthanasia is a very difficult subject for horse owners. The objective of this information sheet is to inform you of the options available and to give you an idea of the costs involved. Making the decision to have your horse euthanased is never easy but knowing what to expect can make that final decision a little easier. We are always available to discuss your horse’s situation with you if it will help you decide the right time for you and your horse.
In some instances an emergency decision may have to be made, for example if you are faced with a serious colic or catastrophic fracture. In many ways the harder situation to deal with is an elective euthanasia, for example a very old or chronically lame horse. When is it the right time?
Most people decide to have their horses euthanased at home in their familiar surroundings as this will involve the least disturbance for the horse. If there is time to plan, it is useful to have a large enough area with suitable access for the vehicle which will take the horse away. A quiet grassy area is a preferable choice. If you do not have the facilities at home or would prefer to bring your horse to the clinic, this can be arranged.
Other horses may also need to be considered. Horses usually accept the loss of their companions well, but where two horses have a very close bond it is worth considering management of the other horse. Sometimes we prescribe sedatives for companions if they are particularly distressed in the days afterwards. In such cases we suggest letting companions see the horse after euthanasia and even leaving them together in the field for some time afterwards. Please feel free to discuss these issues with us and we will try to help. Certainly discuss the euthanasia with other people in a shared yard who may be around at the time or who have horses which have a close bond with your own.
You are welcome to stay with your horse whilst the euthanasia is carried out. Some people find it very helpful to stay but others find it too distressing. Often owners are unsure of what they want to do and are only able to make their decision at the time. Please feel free to feel undecided until the last moment. It is always helpful to have a friend there to support you and help out if required. If you do decide to stay then safety is an issue and you must listen to what the vet tells you. We can arrange for a nurse to come out with us to hold the horse if you would prefer. In many cases owners stay with the horse until a sedative has been administered and the horse is no longer aware of the surroundings before leaving. In general we find that few people who stay whilst euthanasia is carried out regret it. They usually comment that it is more dignified and peaceful than they had imagined.
There are two choices for the method of euthanasia. Both methods are equally quick and painless for the horse.
A large overdose of anaesthetic drugs is used which very rapidly induce unconsciousness and stop the horse’s heart. A sedative is given prior to the injection and sometimes an intravenous catheter is placed. The horse will lose consciousness and collapse. Owners often prefer this method as it is more peaceful although the options for disposal are limited and more expensive. With lethal injection you can be sure that the horse cannot be used for any purpose and must be disposed of by cremation or incineration. Nowadays this method is used more frequently than a bullet.
A bullet is generally used rather than a captive bolt. We are no longer allowed to carry a firearm routinely so it needs to be booked when you make the appointment. The horse is usually sedated prior to being shot and when it is shot then the effect is instantaneous although you need to expect some reflex limb movements. To collect any blood we put a bag over the horse’s head. Two advantages of shooting are cheaper disposal and euthanasia. It is sometimes a better and more dignified end for a horse that is very needle shy.
When you make the appointment to have your horse euthanased we will arrange for the knacker-man to be there at the same time. In the emergency situation we are privileged to have a very professional knacker-man in our area who is usually able to come and collect horses in the evenings and at weekends.
If your horse has been given any drugs, which not only include lethal injection but also routine drugs such as painkillers, your horse will be cremated. If you have the facilities and your own land, it is possible to bury your horse. There are very strict regulations regarding the burial of animals and you must consult DEFRA and the Environment Agency prior to making that decision.
If your horse is cremated you can chose to pay for an individual cremation and have the ashes returned to you in a cardboard box.
Lethal Injection: £92.03 (inc VAT)
Shooting: £86.60 (inc VAT)
Sedation: Approx. £20 depending on size
A travel charge would also need to be added if euthanasia is carried out at home. There is also a charge for time if a nursing assistant attends.
In recent years the disposal of fallen stock has become increasingly difficult with new legislation to prevent it entering the food chain and also prohibiting burial. The rules governing incinerators have also been tightened and many small firms and hunts no longer have their own facilities for this.
Watsons at Bishop Waltham (01489 892521) provide an excellent service in our area and we would normally arrange for them to come out to collect horses we euthanase. They charge between £200-£300 for collection and disposal depending on distance travelled and whether or not it is out of hours.
Hawkins at Cowfold (01403 864361) and Chambers at Guildford (01483 505524) will also collect and provide a disposal service.
Hunts in general will no longer collect fallen stock free of charge. Hampshire Hunt (01962 772306) will collect horses within the hunt area that have been euthanased by injection. They will also come out and shoot horses and take them away. All horses that are free from drugs and shot can be fed to hounds and the cost of collection and disposal is therefore cheaper than for drugged horses. Prices range from £200-£300 depending on the method of euthanasia and the distance travelled.
There are also a limited number of slaughter houses around the country licensed for the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
These details were correct in November 2010. They may be subject to change in prices or legislation. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to discuss any of these details further.
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Stable Close Equine Ltd is registered in England & Wales at Bridgets Farm, Martyr Worthy, Hampshire. SO21 1AR.
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