Equine charity coalition gets hands-on for OIE welfare plan

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A field session at the OIE Focal Points on Animal Welfare seminar in Belem, Brazil.
A field session at the OIE Focal Points on Animal Welfare seminar in Belem, Brazil. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Improvements to the way working equines are treated in the Americas are being made with leading animal charities providing hands-on welfare training for government officials.

The International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE) which includes charities Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA and World Horse Welfare, collaborated in an international seminar on working and farm animals in Belem, north-eastern Brazil last week.

The OIE Focal Points on Animal Welfare seminar was part of a training programme organised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to help implement its welfare guidelines* on protecting working donkeys, horses and mules.

The four charities talked about their work in the Americas, with World Horse Welfare presenting on equine hoof care and lameness, and how partnerships with a range of stakeholders have successfully reduced hoof problems in Panama. Brooke Central America staff presented a case study demonstrating compassionate handling techniques to help train animal handlers and The Donkey Sanctuary showed how to use a simple assessment tool to identify welfare issues.

Seminar delegates saw first-hand how charities are helping to reduce equine welfare issues in the Americas.
Seminar delegates saw first-hand how charities are helping to reduce equine welfare issues in the Americas. © The Donkey Sanctuary

During a field trip to a clinic at the Federal Rural University of the Amazon, the ICWE team guided the participants through the use of the welfare assessment and considered the issues facing working equids in relation to welfare. The training was led by the ICWE members and was hosted by the university’s Project Carroceiro, a community veterinary outreach project, where the vets and their students examine and treat for free the working horses, donkeys and mules in Belem City.

Seriously injured and ill animals are treated and cared for at the veterinary clinic in the university campus until they have fully recovered and returned back to their owners. Every treatment is an opportunity for Project staff to educate owners on good welfare practices to improve the lives of their working animals.

During the field trip, the team also stopped in Bairro Terra Firma, Belem and gave collaborative advice on the role of working animals in the city – where horses are often out 14-16 hours daily – including how to reduce long working hours and how correct harnessing guards against injury.

Cart horses in Belem, Brazil, often work up to 16 hours a day.
Cart horses in Belem, Brazil, often work up to 16 hours a day. © The Donkey Sanctuary

As part of classroom-style training, ICWE members also included discussions on developments in the donkey skin trade and on the global context of ICWE’s crucial work with welfare and working equids. Case studies were used as demonstrations of how good welfare can be implemented.

Leopoldo Stuardo Escobar, OIE Charge de mission on animal welfare, said: “Creating bridges and synergies between public and private sectors is essential to support Member Countries in their efforts to implement OIE international Standards. The Public-Private Partnership established between OIE and the ICWE and this collaboration for building the workshop in the Americas region is a good illustration of this.”

Ian Cawsey, ICWE Chair and Director of Advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary, said it was a real challenge to convert approved standards of welfare into improved practices on the ground. “But by working in partnership as NGOs with the OIE we can reach many more animals than we could by ourselves and the commitment of everyone to this aim is hugely appreciated.”

* Specifically OIE Chapter 7.12. Welfare of Working Equids.

Break time: A working mule in Brazil enjoys a snack. © The Donkey Sanctuary

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