Death Is Not A Welfare Issue

“Death is not a welfare issue”

Oof, this is a hard topic to hit, especially just after letting go of our dearest friend, Blitz. We, as a rescue, provide care for horses who are often broken beyond repair, emotionally or physically damaged in ways that are irreparable, knowing when to let go is one of the most important parts of our job. Our mission is to provide the best quality of life possible for our horses until we can’t anymore. This often means we put on lots of temporary “band-aids” to buy a little more time, but dragging out the length of their life isn’t our mission. Time means nothing without quality.

Sometimes the line can be blurry, when the time becomes “the time” can be hard to judge when we spend every day watching the tiny changes downhill. Instead of noticing the big picture of what is missing from their life. Sometimes we need to look at our animals life from a more analytical, outside point of view, not from our hearts. When we look at our common equine welfare assessment tools, like the “6 F’s” or the “5 freedoms” or the “5 domains”, we can often see where our “band-aids” might not be enough.

The 6 F’s are Friends, Forage, Freedom, Fun, saFety, and comFort.

The 5 Freedoms are freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from fear or distress, from pain, injury, or disease, and freedom to express normal behavior.

The 5 domains are ensuring species appropriate nutrition, physical environment, health, behavioral expressions, and mental state.

Sometimes when we take a step back we notice that the horse in our care no longer has access to all of their welfare needs. We have to think about adding “band-aids” what are we prolonging their life for? Is it so they can spend their time happy, comfortable, having fun with their herd? Are our horses able to express their normal behaviors? Are they able to enjoy a species appropriate lifestyle? Are they able to move freely with minimal pain? Are they able to socialize with their peers? Are they able to eat appropriately? Can they get to the water without pain?

There may be times when we can no longer manage their pain or discomfort, when we reach the limitations of medicine that’s appropriate for that horse. Sometimes we need to really think about what we are buying for our horse when addressing their pain. If by putting them through a stressful or painful medical experience buys them hope at a renewed life of all their needs met, it’s very worth the effort. But if these stressful medical situations are only buying more time of suffering, more time without relief, without being able to return to fully meeting their welfare needs, the cost/benefit analysis just doesn’t add up. As a rescue we are all for stopping at nothing to save a life, but only if we can give them a life worth living. As their quality of life decreases, the less I’m willing to put them through to prolong it.

The big question is, can the horse live the life of a happy horse? If not, what is it you are buying for them by pushing them to live?

Death is not suffering, Death is not painful, Death is not a welfare issue. Horses don’t suffer when they die. If you can’t provide them good welfare, provide them the gift a peaceful passing.

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