SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Dr. Bettina Bobsien DVM, Veterinarian, Private Practice
Horses are long-lived animals and are frequently sold or re-homed many times during their lives. The average lifespan of horses has increased dramatically in the past 25 years due to advancements in nutrition, dental care and management of geriatric diseases. Societal attitudes around euthanasia and slaughter of horses past their working lives have also changed, as many people find this option unacceptable. As a result, many horses now may have very long retirements and frequently outlive their owners’ willingness and ability to care for them. Horse rescue agencies frequently take on these animals, but without assured long-term funding and a care plan, there can be poor welfare outcomes for older animals. Animal welfare agencies need to be educated and prepared for the demographic bulge of aging horses and their aging owners, who may not be able to take care of them until the end of their natural lives. The care needs of geriatric horses including housing, feeding and medication will be discussed, as well as end-of-life options.
- The lengthening lifespan of horses in North America and the implications for animal welfare agencies.
- The financial and care needs associated with caring for older horses.
- End-of-life options for horses without willing caregivers.
Dr. Bettina Bobsien is a veterinarian with over 25 years’ experience in clinical practice. She is an Equine Diplomate with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, has a Bachelor's degree in Agriculture (Animal Science) and is a Canadian Veterinary Reserve member. Bettina was member and chair of the College of Veterinarians Animal Welfare Committee for the past 6 years. Since 2010, she has worked closely with the BC SPCA.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Cordelie DuBois, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph
In a Delphi survey of equine professionals, ignorance was identified as a prominent threat to equine welfare in the Canadian industry. Increased owner education and awareness are considered to be benefits of on-farm assessments, familiarizing owners with standards of care, as well as highlighting areas of potential concern.
As part of a larger project, an on-farm welfare assessment tool was designed and tested on farms in Southern Ontario (n=27). Pre- and post-assessment interviews of participating farm owners were also conducted. This additional qualitative data was used to determine owner familiarity with Canadian standards (in the form of the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Codes of Practice for equines), awareness of welfare risks on their own farms, and their perception of the usefulness of an on-farm assessment in the Canadian industry. Only 50 per cent of owners reported being familiar with NFACC’s Code of Practice, which likely helps to account for the discrepancies found between owner self-report and the on-farm assessment results, particularly with respect to structural elements (e.g. stall sizes).
Farm owners indicated that they felt an on-farm assessment would be very useful to newcomers in the industry and in an accreditation program to provide credibility to equine businesses. In order combat ignorance and improve equine welfare, it is critical to understand not only what owners know but also how well educational opportunities like on-farm assessments are received. As such, opening dialogue between owners and researchers is a necessity in order to find successful methods of continued learning.
- Ignorance is perceived as one of the biggest threats to equine welfare in the Canadian industry.
- Parameters included in an on-farm welfare assessment.
- The potential benefits of an on-farm welfare assessment.
Cordelie DuBois is a PhD candidate at the University of Guelph, currently working on a project that focuses on gaining insight into the perception of welfare issues in the Canadian equine industry, as well as designing an assessment tool based on the recently revised National Farm Animal Care Council's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines and the most up-to-date scientific literature.