The simple definition of welfare, “quality of life,” can sometimes be unclear, as this term can mean different things to different people. In the past, society normally regarded equine welfare only as it relates to the animal’s physiology and environment, such as feeding and shelter. Over the past 15 years, the science of animal welfare has made huge developments in recognizing needs by expanding the concept to also include horses’ well-being and related tolerable threshold of pain, suffering or neglect.
Last year, Equine Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) came together to provide horse owners with updated guidelines for general equine management with the release of the new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines.
“The code was developed for both the professional and the individual owner for the health and welfare of horses,” said Jack de Wit, director with the Equine Canada Board of Directors and Chair of the Code Development Committee.
The code was established to develop and enforce guidelines for minimum standards for the welfare of the horse. This would include proper nutrition, appropriate shelter, disease prevention and treatment, humane handling and, when necessary, humane euthanasia. It was developed with the help of an 18-person committee made up of equine owners, caregivers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, veterinarians and government representatives. A five-person scientific committee, which included researchers with expertise in equine behavior, health and welfare, also aided.
Printed copies of The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines, a 92-page document outlining proper animal care requirements and recommended practices for equine welfare, are available by contacting Equine Canada. The code can also be viewed or downloaded at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/equine.