More than half of Canada’s horse owners know about the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines but 43 percent aren’t aware of it at all, according to preliminary results from a survey of horse owners undertaken by the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada.
The alliance began a survey in March that runs until Oct. 31 so the numbers will change once final results are tabulated.
The equine code was last updated in 2013 through the National Farm Animal Care Council. Mikki Shatosky, project co-ordinator for the alliance, said the initial figures are not surprising but they are disappointing.
“It’s a free resource that people can use to answer their questions on equine care,” said Shatosky.
“It’s got so many things, like housing, shelter, foot care, all those different standards for the animals’ care.”
As of Sept. 22, 1,608 responses had been received from horse owners across the country, with 57 percent saying they are aware of the code. Of those respondents, 27 percent had read all of it, 48 read only sections they considered applicable to their immediate needs and 11 percent hadn’t read it at all.
Shatosky hopes for a larger response as the survey continues. Part of the problem is the scattered nature of horses and horse owners, she said.
Ranchers may own one or two for actual use, pleasure riding or simply as pasture ornaments. Reading the code is not high on the priority list.
Many other horse owners don’t belong to an organized horse club or group and so don’t receive information from an organization about the code and its contents.
However, low awareness does not mean horse health and welfare is lacking, said Shatosky.
“The majority of people are taking care of their animals. People have horses for a reason. They love their animals.
“I don’t think it’s being concerned about the animal so much as trying to get to the people so they can see what the standards are, and even to hold up the document and say ‘we meet these standards’ if someone is challenging them.”
The objective of the survey is to “gauge awareness, implementation and compliance” with the code of practice.
Among respondents who said they used the code, most said they are in full compliance with the requirements.
Those who said they are not in full compliance most frequently cited the sections on safety and emergencies, methods of identification, dental care, facilities for special needs and health management plans as potentially lacking.
The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/equinecodesurvey.
The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines is at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/equine.