Detailed horse welfare indicators made available in vast repository

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An owner observes with interest as his horse is assessed in Egypt. Assessors can provide immediate feedback and advice, and owner engagement is an important part of the process.
An owner observes with interest as his horse is assessed in Egypt. Assessors can provide immediate feedback and advice, and owner engagement is an important part of the process. © Brooke

A freely accessible online repository of animal welfare indicators that can be used by professionals to assess and improve equine welfare has been launched by working horse and donkey charity Brooke.

Its Animal Welfare Indicators Repository is being made available for free and requires only a registration to download. Although these indicators have been developed for use with working equids, there is also scope to adapt them for application to alternative contexts and species, Brooke says.

Animal welfare indicators are scientific, non-invasive measurements of aspects that contribute to an animal’s overall welfare state, which help us to understand welfare from the animal’s perspective, and include physical measures such as nasal discharge or body lesions, and behavioural measures such as the animal’s response to contact or general attitude.

An example of healed wounds from muzzle mutilation; left shows the septum has been pierced and wire inserted; at right the nostrils have been cut, the septum has been pierced and a rope inserted.
An example of healed wounds from muzzle mutilation; left shows the septum has been pierced and wire inserted; at right the nostrils have been cut, the septum has been pierced and a rope inserted. © Brooke/https://doi.org/10.46746/gaw.2020.abi.mut.muz

Indicators include general health looking at issues such as body condition, mucous membranes, and parasites, behaviour and general attitude, gait and lameness, lesions, hoof and “deliberately induced” issues such as firing, and ear, muzzle and tail mutilation. Handling guidelines are also included in the depository, and Brooke’s assessment process is also explained.

The resource is aimed at equine welfare practitioners, researchers, animal health practitioners, policy-makers, advocacy and campaigns officers, emergency responders and students of animal welfare assessment, equine science or animal welfare science.

Since the introduction of its first Working Equine Welfare Assessment protocol in 2003, Brooke has been continually refining how animal welfare is assessed in the field. A Standardised Equine-Based Welfare Assessment Tool (SEBWAT) was launched in 2011, which has been used by more than 150 welfare assessors around the world and continues to be used widely within Brooke’s international country programmes in animal welfare concepts, equine behaviour, handling and welfare assessment.

When assessing tourist horses at their work place in Egypt, disruption to the animal is minimised by not removing harness and checking carefully underneath it.
When assessing tourist horses at their workplace in Egypt, disruption to the animal is minimised by not removing harness and checking carefully underneath it. © Brooke

“Brooke benefits from many years of experience in assessing animal welfare in the field, in numerous countries around the world,” Brooke’s Global Animal Welfare Advisor Ashleigh Brown said.

“We are excited to be able to share our resources and our learning to support others with their efforts to measure and improve animal welfare.”

» View Brooke’s Animal Welfare Indicators Repository

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