A number of rescue and retirement horse facilities may receive some much-needed help this year in the form of free vaccines.
Intervet/Schering-Plough and the American Association of Equine Practitioners launched the Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign at the AAEP's Annual Convention on Dec. 8. The nonprofit program will offer three varieties of equine vaccines to qualified U.S. facilities starting this spring.
"It provides tangible help to rescue facilities. A healthy horse is more adoptable," AAEP immediate past president Dr. Eleanor M. Green said about the campaign's goal.
Equine rescue and retirement facilities will be selected to receive complimentary equine vaccines on the basis of a completed application, compliance with the AAEP care guidelines for rescue and retirement facilities, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, their need, the potential impact on horses' lives, and the professional manner in which the facility is managed. An AAEP member-veterinarian and equine rescue or retirement facility work together to submit an application, the facilities checklist, and the vaccine order form.
A review committee of AAEP veterinarians then decides which clinics are awarded a year's supply of vaccines, which will be shipped free of charge. On Jan. 1 the campaign began accepting applications, and the first deadline is March 1; the second is Sept. 1.
"We hope as soon as possible in April to start shipping," said Ron McDaniel, manager of equine business for Intervet/Schering-Plough.
The three vaccines available through the UHVRC program are used for prevention of infection with West Nile virus, rabies virus, equine herpesvirus type 1, equine herpesvirus type 4, eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus, and western equine encephalomyelitis virus, as well as with the tetanus agent. More information can be found at www.uhvrc.org/.
A portion of all Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health equine vaccine sales, beginning Dec. 1, 2008, fund the program.
"We don't know how big this problem is, but we've put some money in the pot to begin with," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the program anticipates helping more than 2,000 horses in the first year.
Dr. Green said an intangible benefit of the program is that requiring compliance with the AAEP guidelines will help educate the facilities on how to care for the horses through positive reinforcement.
"So many horses are being rescued from rescue facilities," Dr. Green said.
Dr. Miles Hildebrand of Blue Water Equine Hospital in Emmett, Mich., in his free time assists rescue and retirement horse facilities. He has seen horses die because no one knows their health history or whether they've been vaccinated; even if they need to be, the facilities cannot afford the treatment. At the same time, Dr. Hildebrand said, many of these horses have major medical problems and are susceptible to disease and illness.
"All of these organizations have a common denominator: They have a can-do attitude with volunteers trying all they can but they have to cut corners," Dr. Hildebrand said. "That can be alleviated with this program."