The Rest of BEVA's Story

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) was asked by the BHS to provide a list of equine vets, drawn from its membership, to be contacted by the emergency service call centres. This is to ensure that appropriate veterinary care reaches the animals as fast as possible and no time is wasted, as has sometimes been the case, when small animal practices were contacted first, but were unable to help. Also, in this type of incident, it is not uncommon for vets attending to remain unpaid if the owner of the animal is never traced. Because of this, BEVA has established a fund to cover these costs, to guarantee that no time is lost in the treatment, or euthanasia, of an injured horse, while owners are traced or alternative sources of funding are explored.

As well as paying vet and horse ambulance costs, the fund plans to produce and distribute a training DVD for all 52 UK fire brigades. "Training the Trainer" programmes will be provided to all UK fire brigades in order to roll out a uniform standard, adhering to the protocol. Emergency service officers will be trained in horse handling skills and equine disaster management. Specialist equipment, such as hoists, will be provided. Selected veterinary practices will be trained in animal rescue to ensure continuity of approach and specialist medical care and specialist animal rescue vehicles will be provided.

Experience has shown that often horses have suffered and/or died, not because of lack of veterinary or emergency service support, but because of a lack of clarity of who was responsible for dealing with the incident and what procedures needed to be followed. By the time appropriate equipment has arrived, it has often been too late.

Accident scenes are usually chaotic and emotionally charged. Horses, as large animals, have the potential to cause itself and those around it immense damage and even the quietest horse can become unpredictable when frightened and in pain. Specialist lifting equipment is often needed to free the horse from the hazard. At all times the safety of all involved is critical, but at the same time the longer the horse is trapped, the lower its chances of survival.

Specialist knowledge is also needed when freeing horses in these situations. Simply tying a rope round a horse's neck or fetlocks and dragging it out, without taking into account animal behaviour and essential rescue techniques, increases the likelihood that the animal and/or human will be damaged in some way.

For example, with a horse trapped in mud, the suction effect can be so great that attaching a winch or a tractor could pull the hoofs from the pedal bones. In this situation, manual techniques, designed to avoid pulling on the vulnerable head and legs, and a mud lance to inject water to fluidise the mud around the animal's legs, help to reduce the suction effect. Human, rather than mechanical power, can then be used to ease the horse out.

The protocol gives a clear chain of command, helping reducing confusion. It also ensures that an appropriate veterinary practice, with the specialist knowledge and facilities, is contacted. The vet will know what are his responsibilities and what are those of the emergency service officers.

For more information, contact: BEVA, Mulberry House, 31 Market St., Fordham, Ely CB7 5LQ, visit the website, or send an email.