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Euthanasia

When the unfortunate time arises that you have to say goodbye to your horse, pony or donkey, we can help you with this in a sympathetic, respectful way.  Whether it is an emergency situation or perhaps an elderly horse reaching the end of their days; we are on hand to perform the procedure for you.  All our vets carry the necessary equipment required to put a horse to sleep at all times, so in the event of an unforeseen emergency, we can perform the necessary act without delay. 

Making the decision

This is undoubtedly the hardest decision we ever face as an owner. All our vets are available to talk to you about making this decision and we are more than happy to visit the yard to examine your horse and answer any questions you may have in considering this decision. We strongly believe you should feel that you have support from us when the time comes and we will do all we can to make the process as easy as possible. 

Consent for Euthanasia

When the decision has been made to euthanise, we will need you to sign a consent form to give us permission to carry out the injection.  Where possible the owner signs this form; however, in certain circumstances this may not be possible.  If this is the case we will ask an agent to sign on the owner’s behalf.  We will make every effort to speak directly with you as the owner, PRIOR to euthanasia.  Only in exceptional circumstances where the horse’s welfare is compromised beyond measure, and we cannot contact you despite repeated efforts, will we proceed with euthanasia.  In these cases we will obtain a consent from an agent present.  

The consent form requires details regarding insurance details, post-mortem examinations and disposal requests.  We also try to inspect the passport to verify the horse’s identity and ownership status.  We will go through this form at the time of the euthanasia, or before the visit if you prefer. 

Method of Euthanasia

Most of our clients prefer to have their horse put to sleep with an injection.  The drug we use is a very concentrated anaesthetic which is painless when injected.  We will usually place a catheter into the vein to minimise the number of injections your horse has to experience.  In most cases we will also give a sedative to ensure your horse is completely relaxed and calm.  

Once sedated, we make sure we are in a safe area and then, when you are ready, we will give your horse the injection.  The horse will usually take a few deep breaths and then as the anaesthetic takes effect, your horse will lie down.  As we are giving an overdose of the drug, the heart will stop and your horse will peacefully pass away.

If you prefer to euthanase your horse by shooting, please ask us, and we will organise this for you.  

Some owners prefer not to be present at the appointment at all; while some of you prefer not to witness the procedure itself, but have some time to grieve with your horse afterwards.  We are happy in any circumstance, although we do need someone present to assist us where possible.  If you do not have someone else available, one of our nurses will come to the appointment, so you are under no pressure to stay where you’d prefer not to.   

Disposal

It is important to know your horse will be dealt with professionally and with the dignity deserved.  We recommend Cherry Tree Pet Crematorium. Horses are generally cremated after euthanasia.   Currently, we can contact the disposal company on your behalf to make sure collection occurs at the same time.  Alternatively, we will provide you with relevant details for you to make the arrangements.

It is important to know that disposal costs can be considerable, and they vary depending on your chosen option.  Cremations can be done individually, and following this you may elect to have some, or all of your horse’s ashes returned to you. The ashes will be returned to our clinic in Maidstone for you to collect at your convenience.  

Alternatively, you may wish for your horse to be buried.  Burial is restricted by law, and permission can be difficult to obtain.  You should contact DEFRA in advance to ensure requirements are met.  In addition, the Environmental Health Department may also need to be contacted.  Contact information for these sites can be found on our links page.

The passport for the deceased animal should be returned to the Passport Issuing Authority within 30 days. You can request for it to be returned for you to keep.

Costs associated with Euthanasia

Losing your horse is very difficult and we do what we can to make this time as easy as possible.  We recognise that receiving an invoice some time after the event may well stir up painful emotions and be very upsetting for you.  In light of this, you may prefer to settle your account either in advance, at the time of the booking; or you may choose to request an invoice is sent a few days after the visit, rather than the end of the month.  However, whatever you feel works best for you, we will try to accommodate your request. 

Please be aware that disposal companies often require card payment at the time of collection or when booking.  

Insurance

If your horse is insured, you should contact them prior to euthanasia where possible.  We appreciate in certain instances that this is not possible. To make a claim for the death of a horse, you need to be aware of two pieces of information.

BEVA Guidelines for Humane Destruction

To be eligible to make a claim, your horse must meet these guidelines:

“That the insured horse sustains an injury or manifests an illness or disease that is so severe as to warrant immediate destruction to relieve incurable and excessive pain and that no other options of treatment are available to that horse at that time.”

Your vet will be able to discuss this with you and advise you as to whether they are able to support an insurance claim in your situation. If we do not feel these guidelines have been met then a claim may be submitted, but is likely to be unsuccessful. 

Post-Mortem Examinations

All insurers require a post-mortem examination for all horses that are subject to an insurance claim for death, unless the reason for euthansia is so obvious it is beyond dispute, e.g. open fracture. 

We will advise you about post-mortem examinations when you sign the consent form, and you may decline the examination.  You should be aware that if you do decline a post-mortem examination and proceed to submit an insurance claim for death, your claim may be rejected.  

Support

As animal owners ourselves we know how difficult this time can be and so are always available to discuss your individual concerns and needs. We encourage you to have a friend on hand to give you support on the day.

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