The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) announced updated guidelines for equine practitioners in the U.K. as follows on Jan. 6, noting, “these are not normal times—this is not business as usual.”

You Must:

  • Act in COVID-safe ways at all times.
  • Demonstrate biosecure practices commensurate with your standing as a healthcare professional.

You Should:

  • Risk assess visits and procedures, both in the hospital and on clients’ premises.
  • Defer visits or procedures where, on the basis of your professional judgment, it is appropriate to do so. (employers should support employees’ decisions).
  • Minimize contact and proximity with others (clients and co-workers).
  • Minimize travel so far as is possible

You are not Precluded from:

  • Carrying out risk-assessed/mitigated ambulatory work.
  • Carrying out risk-assessed/mitigated hospital work.
  • Carrying out risk-assessed/mitigated work in support of equestrian business and trade.

You Must Not:

  • Compromise COVID-safe working practices unless failure to do so would:
    • cause or prolong suffering.
    • put yourself or others in physical danger.

Background Information

All vets have a current obligation to play their part in minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

All vets have a standing obligation to support equine welfare.

The current government advice for England includes the following:

  • You may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home.
  • Where people cannot work from home …. they should continue to travel to their workplace.
  • This is essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers.
  • Where it is necessary for you to work in other people’s homes–for example, for nannies, cleaners, or tradespeople–you can do so.

BEVA considers that equine veterinary services cannot reasonably be provided without travel. Therefore, equine vets should continue to travel to their workplace (hospital or keepers’ premises).

BEVA recognizes that equine vets play an essential role in supporting the U.K. horse sector (an £8.5bn industry) and that their role is no less necessary than that of nannies, cleaners, or tradespeople.

Many equine veterinary services can take place outside, and nonemergency veterinary activities can, with appropriate facilities, be performed in a COVID-safe fashion (i.e., following a risk assessment and appropriate mitigations to minimise the risk).

BEVA considers that, in order to comply with government guidance, equine vets are bound to provide veterinary services in support of both equine welfare and the U.K. Horse Industry. This means that where a risk assessment has provided a “COVID-safe” way of working, equine vets should be able to carry out work that is essential to support horse welfare and the horse industry, despite the fact that it may not be considered essential to prevent immediate suffering.

Examples of such situations might include:

Racing is allowed to continue as an elite sport. Vets should be available on course throughout the race meeting although, for the most part, this will not be to address a specific animal health issue (it will be to test/maintain the integrity of the sport or to be available to deal with any injuries immediately). Stopping vets attending race meetings will either compromise animal welfare or stop race meetings (fail to support the sector).

Breeding is a significant industry that has not been required to close by government. Stopping veterinary involvement in breeding will either compromise animal welfare (by removing veterinary supervision) or block the industry breeding (fail to support the sector).

Horse Sales are an important part of the horse industry that has not been required to close by Government (horses are bought and sold many times during their lives and the sales cycle is the engine for the equine industry). Prepurchase examinations are an essential part of the sales process. Stopping veterinary involvement in horse sales will compromise animal welfare with horses left unsold and sellers unable to look after unsold animals AND it will stop horse sales (fail to support the sector).

Castration is, given the structure of the industry, necessary to protect horses, protect humans and minimize inappropriate and unwanted pregnancies. Stopping castration will compromise animal welfare.

BEVA is of the opinion that any guidance which arbitrarily blocks essential veterinary activities in support of the horse industry would compromise equine welfare and go against Government guidance on supporting sectors.

Having considered the government guidance and run the above past the RCVS, BEVA believes that this draft advice is appropriate for equine vets.