The Animal Health Trust (AHT) will close after months of trying to source enough funding for a viable future.
The leading veterinary and scientific research charity announced the sad news today (3 July).
“It is with deep regret that today we have announced to our colleagues that the Animal Health Trust’s board of trustees have concluded that the trust needs to close and next week will formally begin the process to wind up the AHT,” said a statement from the charity.
“The decision to cease operations has been reached after several months of trying to secure funding.
“Although substantial progress was made, the charity has been unable to secure the significant funds it needs to have a long-term viable future.
“Further announcements will be made in due course. However, at this point no further comment will be made.”
The charity, which has been in existence for 75 years, is dedicated to animal health and welfare. Its veterinary service provides care for ill and injured dogs, cats and horses, while its scientific team researches cures and treatments for disease and injury, from providing specialist advice to developing vaccines.
Its work includes equine disease surveillance for the UK’s entire horse population, including playing a vital role in monitoring last year’s equine flu outbreak, and specialist veterinary research for the thoroughbred horse racing industry.
The AHT announced it was facing financial difficulties, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, in March. Two months later, it revealed plans to close its equine hospital in May, but hope remained for its research and surveillance work.
That hope has now gone.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA) and Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) met this morning with the Racing Foundation and the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) to discuss the next steps. It was agreed the BHA would lead the racing industry’s efforts to maintain the surveillance and testing capability, and it will also work with British Equestrian, the British Horse Society and the British Horse Council.
Racing provides annual funding of around £700,000 to the AHT, of which the HBLB provides some £400,000. The ROA and TBA also provide further funding.
In addition, the current HBLB research investment is around £2.8m, with research projects at various stages covering virology, bacteriology and other disciplines.
An additional £700,000 was allocated by the HBLB in 2020 after financial difficulties at the AHT became apparent. This conditional grant has not yet been paid, but is available if a solution for providing the essential disease control and veterinary research services can be agreed.
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“The Animal Health Trust has played an important role in maintaining the high standards of equine health and welfare in the racing industry and the equine sector,” said a BHA spokesman.
“Its staff, led by director Richard Newton, responded superbly when we faced an equine flu outbreak last year.
“We recognise their world-leading expertise in epidemiology and veterinary research and do not want to see this lost to the British equine sector.
“We believe that if the horse sector maintains the strong collaborative approach it has adopted in combatting disease and engaging government over issues such as Brexit, it should be possible to maintain an effective surveillance programme and the specialist veterinary research capability.”
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