Every horse owner should give this considered thought so they are prepared when the time comes.
It is difficult to accept death at any time. Death becomes even more painful when you must decide to end a beloved animal’s life. Always remember, your horse depends on you to make rational, informed decisions, often in difficult circumstances. You must ensure the horse’s welfare is always put first.
There are a range of circumstances under which euthanasia may be required:
It is a highly individual decision to euthanize an animal. Every case is unique.
The decision can depend on the horse’s temperament in some cases. Can they cope with the treatment without getting too stressed? Some are more co-operative than others; some have a higher pain tolerance.
Be practical and not entirely emotional when addressing the situation. Let your head, not your heart control your actions.
Speak to your veterinarian to help you decide what is right for you and your horse. Your veterinarian can provide you with medical information and what your horses possible future could be.
The four main questions to consider after making this difficult decision are:
In an emergency situation your horse may need to be put down without delay. In this case you do not have the choice of location. In a non-emergency situation it is much kinder to keep your horse in familiar surrounds if possible.
If your horse can be put down at home make sure suitable access to the yard or paddock is available for removal of the body by truck.
You might decide to move other animals away from where the procedure will take place.
If it isn’t possible to have your horse put down at home, decide with the help of your vet, if your horse is fit to travel. It is illegal to transport an unfit animal.
You can provide transport or explain clearly to the knackery that your horse is to be put down as soon as it arrives. Note, it is an offence for the knackery to sell your horse if you have instructed the horse is to be put down.
Decide to have your horse shot or given a lethal injection. Think about who is available to perform the task, and whether the horse’s welfare will be compromised if immediate euthanasia is delayed.
Shooting can be performed by a knackery worker, vet, hunt kennelman, or an experienced person with a firearm license. The horse is generally killed instantly by a bullet to the forehead.
Don’t dismiss a knackery worker as a suitable candidate. They are licensed by law and have long provided the traditional service of euthanasia and disposal. An experienced knackery worker will come out to your property, often at short notice. They should conduct themselves in a caring, professional manner. Get a recommendation from local horse owners or your vet.
Vets administer lethal injections. The horse is generally injected with a sedative, which is followed by a lethal overdose of anesthetic drugs given intravenously. The horse will fall to the ground and lose consciousness. It will take a few minutes for body systems to shut down.
Remember, this form of euthanasia can mean it will be harder to dispose of the body because of chemical residue.
Note: If the horse is insured, notify the insurance company in advance of the euthanasia so there are no problems with claims. While the vet will provide you with the required documentation, the notification, filing and follow-up are your responsibilities.
Find out what facilities are available in your area for cremation, incineration or burial and then consider the costs involved.
If the horse’s body is diseased or drug treated the knackery or hunt kennel may not take it.
Ease the Grieving Process
Grieving for a beloved companion can be really hard to come to terms with. Cry if it helps to express your emotions. Talk to someone supportive or maybe have a look at these helpful websites to find information to deal with the sense of loss:
Keep a memento of your horse, such as a wisp of mane or a piece of riding equipment. This can be comforting during the grieving process
and in the years to come.