Equine Charities Unite to Put Welfare Policy Into Practice

Equine Charities Unite to Put Welfare Policy Into Practice

The coalition aims to advise, motivate, and support the implementation of the first-ever global welfare standards for working horses, donkeys, and mules.

Photo: Courtesy Brooke USA

Leading international equine welfare charities Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad), and World Horse Welfare have announced their first formal coalition.

Formed specifically to put policy into practice, the coalition aims to advise, motivate, and support the implementation of the first-ever global welfare standards for working horses, donkeys, and mules. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) approved these landmark standards in May 2016 following advocacy and technical support from Brooke and World Horse Welfare.

This is the first time all four major charities have formally joined forces. Although not law, these landmark changes finally give legitimacy to calls for equine welfare to be improved around the world.

Brooke USA, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, supports international equine welfare programs, particularly those of Brooke International, through fundraising and stewarding donations to the areas of greatest need.

“This is the sort of vital collaboration between equine welfare groups that has the potential to make significant progress in behalf of working equines around the world, and Brooke USA is proud to support this effort,” said Brooke USA Chairman David Jones, DVM.

Petra Ingram, CEO of Brooke International, who spearheaded the formation of the coalition and will be its Chair for the first year, believes that it’s the right vehicle to bring the standards to life.

"A respected champion of change can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to implementation,” she said. “Our message to countries is ‘let us help; equine welfare is an ally of humanitarian issues.’ ”

With 180 OIE member states now acknowledging the importance of working horses, donkeys, and mules, the time is right for coordinated action to implement the standards around the world.

“We know that horses, donkeys and mules are essential to hundreds of millions of human livelihoods, and it is heartening that the world is now recognizing their versatility and importance,” said Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare. “World Horse Welfare looks forward to working in partnership, bringing our influencing skills and 90 years of practical expertise gained helping equines around the world. The scale of the challenge to help 100 million working animals is so large that we must work together to get them the recognition and support they desperately need.”

As world-leading experts in equine welfare with a combined geographic reach covering the major populations of the world’s working equines, the four charities will provide a unique resource.

The coalition hopes to share a wealth of professional expertise and technical know-how by jointly developing training resources and working with governments, academics, communities, and professionals to help put the standards into practice within the contexts of different countries, cultures, and economies.

“It is very encouraging that there is now international recognition for the working equines that play a fundamental role in supporting the livelihoods of millions of families worldwide,” said Geoffrey Dennis, SPANA chief executive. “Through veterinary treatment, education, and training for animal owners, SPANA works to improve the welfare of these vitally important horses, donkeys, and mules across many countries. We are looking forward to working in partnership to ensure that the new standards are translated into practical support and action that makes a tangible difference to working animals and the communities that depend on them.”

The coalition’s work will use skills the four organizations have to improve welfare assessment training, build capacity in equine owning communities, and equip service providers (including farriers, saddlers, and veterinarians) with the skills and tools required to provide affordable quality services. It will also support universities in curriculum development and postgraduate veterinarians with continuing professional development, as well as raising awareness of the importance of working equids to human livelihoods with policy makers.

“This is a fantastic milestone in global equine welfare standards,” said Mike Baker, CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary. “Our new coalition will really maximise welfare improvements as we share our skills, resources, and experience. Millions of donkeys, horses, and mules work extremely hard every day and it will be wonderful to highlight how vital they are for their human owners and communities.”

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