I will start this with, “I have the best job in the world”.
However, it is far from the easiest job, the Animal Welfare Act is quite restrictive, on almost a daily basis I deal with angry and aggressive people, upset people, poorly, neglected horses and ponies, death and situations where the only option is euthanasia. I met people who don’t fully understand the Animal Welfare Act and the powers the police have under it.
I have to consider the welfare of the horse, but also the welfare/ mental health of the owner, the powers under the Act and what action is appropriate to take.
The day started normally, I was, as are most people at the moment, working from home updating and making calls when a report of a welfare concern came in. It was quickly apparent it was a code red. (We code the urgency of concerns green, amber and red in order to prioritise attendance).
I attended immediately and I saw a horse that really needed help. I consulted an Equine Welfare Vet and she confirmed the time scale it may have taken to get to the stage it was and the appropriate course of action. This helps me determine if an offence has potentially being committed or not. I was on a short time scale following her advice. It was essential that I contacted the owner, but I only had a short amount of time to do that. It was imperative the horse saw a vet to obtain a diagnosis, within a couple of hours. Although I suspected the horse was very old and euthanasia would be the recommended outcome, I still needed a professional to confirm the best outcome for the horse. I could see the horse was cared for and, in this situation, it is better to find the owner as opposed to getting the Vet and police to attend.
I located the landowner, who was extremely angry and abusive, refused me access to the land unless I was with the owner. So, having not established permission to go on the land, I would either have to get the owner or the police to let me have access to further investigate. The one thing that was certain was I would not leave without helping that horse and making sure their welfare was no longer compromised.
I managed to contact the owner, who was also extremely angry and dismissive of my findings, urgency and requests. I persuaded them to attend, hoping that they too would see I was correct in calling them and that the horse needed help quickly.
Upon arrival, they instantly called their own vet who advised euthanasia. The owner was still very aggressive and not happy that I was there, condemning all welfare charities. Owners get angry for a number of reasons; anger is not always an indication of guilt. They can be unhappy they have been caught not catering properly for their equine’s welfare, or in other cases clearly committing offences. Sometimes they can also be embarrassed that they have missed something they should not have, realisation they have been ‘burying their heads’ for many reasons.
Whatever the reason it can be very unnerving for a while, if I can calm owners down and have a conversation nearly all accept what I am saying and why I have been called, you have to keep calm and diffuse the situation in the interest of the equine. I understand the reaction and don’t hold it against owners, my goal is to stop an equine suffering and improve welfare standards.
The horse was euthanised, which was the appropriate and kindest course of action. Although it is not easy to be there when an equine is euthanised it is part of my job, the owners also often need some support.
I can guide and, in my heart, know what an outcome may be, but it is always a vet that advises and in a case like this, the owners took their own vet’s advice. Had they not, there would potentially have been offences committed and I would have dealt with it a different way.
We consider a high number of factors when we are dealing with call outs, every call out is different to improve the welfare of equines and ensure the best outcome.
As I said at the start, I have the best job, it can be difficult, challenging, emotional, but satisfying and I feel proud to be able to help so many horses and ponies.