The ability to offer an aged, sick or critically injured horse a peaceful ending is something we strongly support.
Some of us have experienced the challenge and heartbreak of having to euthanize a beloved horse, while some may not have experienced this and have questions, doubts, and concerns about the process and if it is “the right time.” Regardless of the reason, it is a very difficult decision to make.
However, as caregivers of these sentient animals, we all share a responsibility to ensure that they never needlessly suffer, nor experience an overwhelming loss in the quality of their life.
As a rescue we are often asked by owners if we will take their elderly equine when it is dealing with physical issues. Depending on the specific situation, we may suggest euthanasia as the kindest and most humane option.
Rather than passing these horses along to a new and unknown situation, the most compassionate choice may be to offer them an easy end of life in familiar surroundings, with people they know and trust. Elderly and physically limited horses are also far more likely to end up at auctions, where they run the risk of being sold for slaughter. Euthanasia can be an incredible gift, allowing our beloved equine partners the dignity of a peaceful passing, free from pain, confusion or fear.
If the cost or logistics of humane euthanasia are a concern, there are resources available! The MSSPA has funds available to help, which are available through an application to their Feed and Care Bank. Burial can be a challenge for some owners, and in this case we recommend contacting Michelle Melaragno at Compassionate Composting. They specialize in the respectful pick-up, handling, transport and composting of horses and other large and small animals after their death.
If you own an equine and have questions about their quality of life, we first recommend consulting with your veterinarian. Below are some examples where euthanasia may be necessary:
- Horse exhibits aggressive or other dangerous behavior such that it poses a threat to the safety of people, other animals, or itself; and the behavioral problems are not amenable to training or to medical/surgical interventions.
- Horse has a medical condition that will result in poor quality of life. This may also include cases that, even with treatment, have a high likelihood of recurrence requiring intensive veterinary treatment for life and/or a guarded prognosis.
- Horse is in extreme pain, which cannot be alleviated in a satisfactory manner.
- Horse is a carrier of a serious, life-threatening communicable disease, and quarantine procedures are not feasible.
Please feel free to contact us at Horses with Hope if you have questions or would like additional support, while trying to make this difficult decision.
Additional Resources on Humane Euthanasia:
- “Goodbye, Old Friend: The Euthanasia of Your Horse” book by Maine veterinarian Dr. David Jefferson
- Will You Know When It’s Time? Horse Euthanasia, the Hardest Decision by Far
- What Owners Need to Know About Equine Euthanasia
- Making the Decision to Euthanize your Horse or Donkey