Founder Care and Ethical Considerations

While you probably wouldn’t think of treating a foundered horse as a situation in which tough ethical decisions could crop up, the Second International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot held Nov. 10-11 featured a morning on just that topic.
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Ethics is defined as the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. While you probably wouldn't think of treating a foundered horse as a situation in which tough ethical decisions could crop up, the Second International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot held Nov. 10-11 featured a morning on just that topic.

Starting with a presentation by Lori S. Mann, VMD, of Landenberg, Penn., some of the possible dilemmas in treating severely damaged horses began to come to light.

"Animals are a form of personal property (1)," she began. "They have no legal rights except through the owner (2), and the law only requires that "animal property not be 'wasted' or that animals not be killed or made to suffer when there is no legitimate economic purpose." (9)

But what of the suffering of a horse which is being treated for laminitis or any other painful condition? At what point does one draw the line? she asked. There is no hard and fast answer as ethics vary from person to person, so she asked attendees to consider where each one of them would draw the line on what was ethical in founder treatment. She discussed three case studies to illustrate some of the common ethical issues veterinarians face

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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