How Do I Properly Dispose of my Horse's Syringes?

How Do I Properly Dispose of my Horse's Syringes?

Do you know how to properly dispose of sharps used on your horses?

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The American Pet Product Association's National Pet Owners Survey revealed that Americans own approximately 78 million dogs, 86 million cats, and 8 million equine. Included in these figures are animals that need injections of medications provided in a home setting ranging from antibiotics to vaccines to insulin. Multiply even a fraction of those figures by the number of injections administered to those animals, and you can start to visualize the staggering volume of needles potentially discarded into the environment.

Strict guidelines are enforced for the disposal of medical wastes generated in healthcare facilities and veterinary practices, including needles, syringes, blood, and tissues. However, guidelines for horse owners and farm managers are not so clearly defined. Your state public health department should be able to provide simple recommendations for containment and disposal of used sharps. Some communities accept them in a plastic sturdy, puncture resistant jug or carton labeled "sharps." Red containers with the universal biohazard symbol are the best option for proper labeling, storage, and transportation of medical waste. Medical supply companies, pharmacies, and online retailers carry them in a variety of sizes. Additionally, some companies (one example being offer a sharps mailback service, which allows users to send a full disposal container to a specified location for proper disposal.

With a proper disposal method in place, you can help prevent accidental needlesticks in the barn, on farms, or throughout the community. The most common problems that arise when an individual gets cut or punctured with a needle used on a horse are bacterial infections. Puncture wounds often require antibiotics to treat related infections and can be quite serious if not properly cared for by a physician. Of further concern are puncture wounds caused by a needle used on a person with HIV, hepatitis, or other infectious diseases. The complications caused by these pathogens can have deadly consequences.

A few dos and don'ts about used sharps:

  • DO: Deposit into a container immediately after administering medications
  • DO: Inquire about community drop off sites for used sharps
  • DON'T: Recap sharps before disposal
  • DON'T: Toss sharps in a normal garbage can or on the ground
  • DON'T: Include sharps with recyclables
  • DO: Ask your veterinarian to dispose of sharps for a fee
  • DO: Carry a biohazard sharps container when traveling to prevent needles and syringes from being disposed of improperly
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