The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has launched a position statement on the use of electric fencing for horses and livestock, and calls for further research into non-harmful alternatives for containing livestock and horses.
With its new position statement, the BVA is encouraging further research into alternative, non-harmful ways to contain livestock and horses, said president Simon Doherty. “Until then, we’re supporting the responsible use of electric containment fences by providing vets with some top tips and references to kickstart conversations with their clients.”
It supported “the design, selection and maintenance of physical electric containment fences for horses in
consultation in line with advice set out in the National Equine Welfare Council and in consultation with a veterinary surgeon who will be able to signpost to relevant advice and supporting resources.”
The BVA said poorly designed containment systems or fencing of any kind “may lead to negative health and welfare outcomes for animals (both livestock and wildlife) due to potential entanglement”.
“We therefore encourage careful selection, design and maintenance of any fencing used to contain livestock and horses, eg, through increased visibility and careful placement.
“Whilst we recognise that when used safely and responsibly, electric containment fencing for livestock and horses can be an acceptable intervention in terms of efficient and safe herd management, we would encourage further research into alternative, non-aversive interventions to contain livestock that do not have the potential to result in negative welfare outcomes.”
The association supported the design, selection and maintenance of physical electric containment fences so that the strength of the current is appropriate for the species in order to avoid the delivery of an excessively severe shock.
Among the BVA’s recommendations were:
- Electric containment fencing should be designed, selected and maintained so that it does not cause more than momentary discomfort to animals.
- Batteries that may be used to power electric fence should be carefully maintained to avoid any damage that could cause leakage resulting in environmental hazards or potential toxicity in livestock. All power units for electric fences must be effectively grounded to prevent short circuits and/or electricity being conducted to unwanted places, ie, gates and water troughs.
- Highly visible tape or rope-like electric fencing should be used for flight animals such as horses, and, where possible, flags should be attached to fencing or there should be other visual markers near fencing to ensure boundary visibility for livestock and horses and avoid potential entanglement. “Only electric fencing that is designed for use with horses should be used. Broad electric tape is preferable to single-stranded wire as it is more easily visible to the horse.”
“Whilst we recognise that when used safely and responsibly, electric containment fencing for livestock
can be an acceptable intervention in terms of efficient and safe herd management, it is regrettable
that there are not currently alternative, non-aversive interventions available. We would therefore
encourage further research into alternative, non-aversive interventions that do not have the potential
to result in negative welfare outcomes.”
Doherty also reminded members of the public about the importance of ensuring their dogs are kept under control around livestock. “Chasing and attacks can lead to serious injuries, fatalities and spontaneous abortion for sheep and other livestock due to stress. We would encourage dog owners to ensure that any location where their dog is kept is secure and to keep their dog on a lead near livestock.”