Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Equidae

Equine Codes of Practice in England, Scotland and Wales provide a fundamental basis for assessing if an individual horse, pony, donkey or mule is a concern. They summarise the legal responsibility under the Acts and provide guidance on how keepers are expected to meet the needs of their animal. As such, they are effectively a ‘green cross code’ to owning or keeping an equine.

It is the owner and keeper’s responsibility to read the code of practice and to fully understand their animal’s welfare needs and what the law requires from them. Many owners are completely unaware of the existence of these codes of practice and are receptive to learning more about the requirements included within them. If you are involved in caring for horses, you should be aware of the guidance within the Defra Code of Practice and the NEWC Compendium.

Should a prosecution be taken, the courts will consider whether the actions, or lack of action, were that of a prudent owner or keeper.  They will use the Codes of Practice to help them decide which actions could/should have been taken in order for the animal to be cared for properly.  Failure to comply with the codes is not an offence in itself.

The Codes of practice provide useful guidance around the full range of welfare concerns including;

  • How to plan for euthanasia
  • How to provide a suitable environment for equines
  • How to provide a suitable diet and specific focus on laminitis prevention and weight management
  • How to provide for the behavioural needs of equines including training and how to avoid fear associations and appropriate use of restraint.

National Equine Welfare Guidelines Compendium

The National Equine Welfare Council launched the third edition of the Equine Industry Welfare Guidelines Compendium at British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress 2009 in Birmingham.

This third edition reflects the significant changes in animal welfare legislation as well as improved scientific knowledge of welfare issues.

Whilst previous editions were used extensively in supporting welfare investigations and legal proceedings, the new edition is designed to assist anyone responsible for the welfare of horses, ponies and donkeys in meeting their obligations under the new welfare legislation in England, Wales and Scotland.

The Compendium was funded, written and produced by the industry, with the full support of Defra and HRH The Princess Royal. It has been made available to the public for no more than the cost of postage. Uptake so far has been very strong, in particular by equine educational institutions such as the vet schools. The industry is keen to also see the Compendium in the hands of horse owners and others responsible for the day to day care of equines.

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