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Q: I am looking for someone to loan my horse, but worry about the pitfalls.

A friend of mine was horrified to learn that her loan horse had been put down by a vet after a bout of colic. Is this allowed to happen?
AM, South Wales

Although the case you mention is a sad one, it is not an uncommon scenario. The welfare of a horse is the responsibility of the carer or keeper rather than the owner.

Furthermore, a vet has a duty of care to the horse and this takes priority over contacting any unavailable parties involved in the animal’s care.

“The story highlights the importance of having a sound loan agreement,” said Samantha McEwan, partner at law firm Stone King Sewell.

“The loanee is, of course, strongly advised to have the horse vetted as an objective evidence of its health at the commencement of the loan.”

According to Samantha, a loan agreement should include the following:

• Authority regarding veterinary intervention and euthanasia

• Stipulation of an agreement to loan, not a sale or gift

• Description of the condition of the horse and equipment

• Details of how long the loan is for and any options for renewal or termination

• Details of where the horse should be kept

• Details of who pays for what — vaccinations, insurance, etc

“Incidentally, in the example you gave of the horse being euthanased, legal action on the part of the horse’s owner would have been unlikely to succeed — it would actually be evidentially very difficult to establish that the vet was negligent in putting the horse down, or that the animal’s owner would not have done the same thing if consulted,” said Samantha.

Information

Stone King Sewell (Samantha McEwan), tel: 01285 649717 www.skslaw.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (6 May, ’10)

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