Ask H&H: calling a vet in the owner’s absence

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    Q: I keep my horse at livery on a farm and the owner has asked to see the liveries’ passports, stating that if a livery owner goes on holiday and has left their horse in the hands of someone else, the farm owner needs to be informed if a vet has to be called.

    The farm owner believes she has the right to decide if the vet should be called, not the person left in charge of the horse. Is this correct? What happens if the farm owner can’t be contacted?
    CJ, Worcestershire

    As a “keeper” — defined by Defra as “a person who is not the owner of a horse, but is appointed by the owner to have day-to-day charge of that horse” — a livery yard owner is responsible for animals placed in their care.

    Therefore, it would be considered normal procedure for a livery yard owner to check that horses on their premises do possess a valid passport.

    According to Deborah Pett MRCVS of Cinder Hill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Sussex, the welfare of a horse is the responsibility of the owner, carer or keeper of the horse. Hence, a friend or the livery yard owner could both volunteer their responsibility.

    “Some livery yard owners may expect to be informed out of courtesy if a veterinary surgeon is called to their yard.

    “However, if a horse is registered with a veterinary practice and a friend of the horse’s owner contacts the practice in an emergency, the vet has a duty of care to the horse which takes priority,” she said.

    “In fact, in a situation where a horse is on full livery — where the yard owner is paid to be responsible for a horse in the owner’s absence — it is completely understandable that the livery yard owner would want to be involved in making decisions when the owner is not present.”

    According to Defra, a vet is able to treat a horse in the absence of a passport. However, details of the relevant medication administered must be passed to the owner for inclusion in the passport when it becomes available.


    Cinder Hill Equine Veterinary Clinic www.cinderhillequinevets.co.uk

    Defra www.defra.gov.uk

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (21 May, ’09)

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