Euthanasia Assistance

Q. Some veterinarians and shelters will take care of your pet for free if you have a low income or are out of work. Can people with no money get a veterinarian to euthanize their horse for free?

Carrie, via e-mail

A. First, does one of the following statements, developed by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), apply to your situation?

  • Is the horse's condition chronic or incurable?
  • Does the condition suggest a hopeless prognosis for life?
  • Is the horse a hazard to himself or his handlers?
  • Will the horse require continuous medication for pain relief for the remainder of his life?

If so, some veterinarians might euthanatize a horse at a reduced cost or at no cost to end the animal's suffering. Some clinics even have an emergency fund for this purpose. However, if the horse is merely an unwanted horse, there might be a different solution.

Last year, the AAEP organized an Unwanted Horse Summit, which led to the formation of a coalition whose missions are to reduce the number of unwanted horses and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety, and responsible care of the horse.

Before purchasing a horse, prospective horse owners should learn from horse industry professionals that horses live a long time, are expensive to care for, and usually cannot be relinquished to the local humane society when no longer useful. During the ownership period, caregivers should work with experts to prolong their animal's health and performance. Finally, when the horse no longer fulfills the owner's needs, resources should be available to help place the horse into a more appropriate situation. For example, the horse could be sold, leased, or given to someone competing at a lower level, someone who trail rides, or someone who needs a companion horse. The horse could also be donated to a therapeutic agency or rescue for retirement or adoption.

Here are more resources to assist with placement:

About the Author

Lydia Gray, DVM, MA

Lydia Gray, DVM, is Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. She was previously the executive director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, IL, and an Owner Education Director for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

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