Animal Health Trust to close equine hospital as focus on research remains *H&H Plus*

  • After many weeks of work behind the scenes to help the Animal Health Trust find a secure financial footing, a plan for the future of the charity has been revealed, which doesn’t include its referal hospitals. H&H finds out more and seeks reaction to the loss from the British Equine Veterinary Association...

    The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is to close its equine hospital – but hope remains for its research and surveillance work.

    The charity announced this year that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, on top of a period of financial difficulty, meant it was facing imminent closure (news, 26 March).

    Trustees and the executive board have been trying to save the trust’s work, and it was announced today (28 May) that this could be possible.

    “In order for the AHT to go forwards, it needs to have a viable business model that demonstrates it can be self-financing and therefore can attract the short-term funding required to take it from the current dire financial position to that future viable model as quickly as possible,” a spokesman said.

    “The trustees have concluded that if the charity is to continue, and it remains uncertain that the funding can be found to make that possible, the only viable option is for it to revert to its core purpose of providing world-renowned veterinary and scientific research for the benefit of companion animals.

    “As a result, subject to consultation, the trustees are proposing to close the AHT’s two referral practices: for small animals and horses.”

    The AHT is the leading veterinary and scientific research charity 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.

    AHT trustee Steve Shore said: “The work at the Animal Health Trust is truly unique and being told that the referral clinics could be closing and there is no longer a job for you is a terrible prospect, and especially difficult for our teams of dedicated vets, nurses and support staff, all of whom take so much pride and care in looking after their patients and owners. But we must make difficult decisions to create a possible future for the AHT.

    “We also need to do this right, which means we will work closely with our employees and representatives, as appropriate, and going through a formal consultation process with everyone affected.

    “The trust was founded nearly 80 years ago by Dr W Reg Wooldridge who wanted it to promote veterinary research and prevent suffering in companion animals. The trustees believe in making this difficult decision, the AHT will continue to have this vision at its heart and will give it the best chance of future success.”

    British Equine Veterinary Association chief executive David Mountford told H&H the association has been in contact with the AHT throughout the process, and was “very sad” to hear the equine clinical services would close.

    “It’s had an impressive history and has seen many veterinary stars,” he said. “Our thoughts are with those facing redundancy.

    “We’re thrilled, however, that there are potential lifelines for the AHT’s research and equine disease surveillance work. These functions are hugely important for the health of our national horse herd and underpin all the sector’s activities.

    “We hope that all parts of the equine industry will step up to the mark and help support them in the future.”

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