New guidelines ensure four-legged friends are fit to travel

Freight interests, veterinary organisations and animal welfare groups, together with the European Commission, have published new guidelines on transporting equidae – horses, ponies, donkeys or hybrids.
As well as general advice on journey length and the design of accommodation, they set out clear and simple methods of assessing the fitness of animals for transport while reducing the risk of disease transmission and preventing animal suffering.
The guidelines apply to all forms of transport, including air. Among the participants are Animal Angels, the Animal Transport Association, Austrian Federal Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons, Animal Welfare Indicators, Belgian Confederation for the Horse (BCP-CBC), European Farmers and Agri-Cooperatives, Eurogroup for Animals, Italian Equestrian Sports Federation, Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, French Equestrian Federation and European Livestock and Meat Trades Union.
The illustrated guidelines show transporters and others how to assess if animals are fit to transport. While these checks are not intended to replace the services of a qualified vet, they are intended to help transporters spot obvious signs of disease, injury, lameness or fatigue – including use of the Horse Grimace Scale to evaluate changes in facial expression due to pain.
They also advise on how to look out for behavioural signs such as pacing or restlessness, lying down for prolonged periods or irritability, all of which may indicate that the animal is not fit to travel or that veterinary advice should be sought before it does so.
It is also necessary to check that animals are not severely over- or under-weight before travel and the advice includes diagrams – for both horses and donkeys on how to assess this.
The guidelines also advise that animals displaying dangerous behaviour such as rearing, biting or making repeated attempts to escape should not be transported.
The guidelines are available by registering with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe: www.fve.org

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