Ky. Council Discusses Voluntary Equine Rescue Certifications

The Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council met July 24 in Frankfort and continued discussing and planning for voluntary certifications for equine rescue and retirement facilities within the commonwealth.

Eight council members were present in addition to council Chairman Rusty Ford, equine programs manager for the Kentucky Office of the State Veterinarian, who called the meeting to order at 2:00 p.m.

After Bob Coleman, PhD, PAS, of the University of Kentucky, presented a brief recap of the progress that's been made on the rescue and retirement center evaluation form, the council discussed whether certain items on the evaluation form could be considered "deal breakers," while others should carry less weight.

For example, "If you score (well) on having a dental program in place, would it override a (poor score) on feed and water availability? That might be a little bit of an issue," Coleman said.

Council member Richard Wilcke, from the University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program, concurred, giving the example of having good quality hay for horses but not having an identification system in place. "This checklist has to have a weighted emphasis so the things that are more crucial are getting more weight," he said

Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert Stout, DVM, agreed that a weighted evaluation form was necessary, but argued that while an identification system might not seem as important as feed and water, it can be very simple to implement ("It's as simple as just taking a picture" and logging the horse's information, he said).

Coleman also stressed the importance of rescue and retirement centers having a business plan in place: "They have to have a business plan and an operations procedure manual," he explained. "Whoever's doing the assessment should know--if it goes awry, what are they doing to do?"

The council agreed that the ultimate goal is to have as many rescue and retirement centers certified as possible, and that it will be important to educate organizations on what the council will be looking for when they visit each center. Specific details in this area are still on the drawing board.

The council also discussed whether to approve facilities based on minimum care standards or best practices. Ultimately, they decided to stick with minimum care standards as dictated by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, with the option to include different levels of certification (based on best practices) in the future.

"We need to keep it simple to start with," said council member Frank Dwayne Marcum, DVM.

The council also agreed to open rescue and retirement center registration in the near future to gather information on the operations currently in business. They also are planning to visit operations and discuss the future certifications and evaluations.

Other items discussed were what, if any, fee would be collected for organizations to become approved; who will carry out evaluations (they agreed that more than one person with more than one field of expertise needs to be a part of the evaluations); and how inspectors would be trained to carry out evaluations. The council agreed to work on developing solutions to these discussion topics after the meeting.

At the council's last meeting, Ford said he'd hoped to have the certification program up and running by the fall.

"I don't believe we'll make it this fall," he said Tuesday. "But it's on the horizon."

In other news Ford briefly discussed current equine diseases within the commonwealth and around the nation.

"On the health front, we're in continued good shape," he said. "We've had sporadic instances of Streptococcus equi (the causative bacteria of strangles), but nothing in a public environment."

He also touched on the recent neurologic equine herpesvirus-1 outbreak stemming from a Tennessee trail riding event. He said the scare was very well managed, and the quick response and distribution of information "proved beneficial in minimizing the spread and transmission of disease."

Ford briefly discussed New Mexico's current vesicular stomatitis outbreak and noted that while about 14 premises remain quarantined, disease spread has been minimal when compared to past outbreaks.

Additionally, Stout briefly discussed a recent meeting of the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission, which is working to develop minimum care standards for livestock, including horses, in Kentucky. He said that while the care standards are still being finalized, the finished document will contain three sections: definitions, general provisions (for all species), and species-specific sections.

Stout said that the commission has scheduled a public forum for July 30 to hear individuals' take on the care standards. He said that all of the five-minute speaking slots have already been filled. The meeting will take place at 1:00 p.m. in room 129 of the Capitol Annex Building, also in Frankfort.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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