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Saphira, killed by ignorance and without scruple
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(10 October 2014)
Saphira was only 12 years old, she was in perfect health and had a young owner who adored her - and from whom she was taken away,
loaded onto a lorry and taken off to be slaughtered.
Saphira’s legal owner, the father of the young woman, contacted us on 28 July saying that the mare had resulted positive in a routine test for EIA (Equine Infectious Anaemia). He had found our contact details on the internet thanks to our many online articles on this subject, and asked us to help save the horse because - in his own words - the ASL and the owner of the yard - Cazzago San Martino - where Saphira was boarded had told him that the only solution was to have the horse euthanased or sent for slaughter.
We took the case up immediately, asking for a copy of the documentation, and got back in touch with the owner of the mare on 31 July, only to find to our great concern that the horse had been sent to slaughter the previous day.
For many years now our Association has been promoting initiatives to inform
owners and equine health officials of the very minimal danger of AIE, proven both by recent scientific studies (which were also presented an
, endorsed by the Ministry of Health and by CRAIE [National AIE Referral Centre]) and by legal directives. Furthermore, in the absence of any other solution,
many perfectly healthy AIE positive horses have been accepted at our rescue centre
in order to free them from enforced isolation. These horses now live together in liberty, and have never shown any symptom consistent with this disease (
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We therefore contacted the Order of Veterinary Surgeons of the Province of Brescia
, requesting an explanation of the ASL’s procedures. It appears that, again according to the owner of the horse, far from giving the owner of the mare time and help to find alternative solutions with the welfare of the animal as a priority the ASL had backed up the pressure on the owner to "eliminate" the horse as soon as possible, given that her presence at the yard meant that it was quarantined. The horse was registered on her passport as destined for the food chain, so nothing was simpler than to send her off as fast as possible to the butcher.
This action is ethically unacceptable, but it is also not in line with the Ministry’s view, which, following the first wave of controls, has been moderating its orders and its information to increasingly favour keeping EIA positive horses alive and in good welfare conditions.
Beyond this general reflection, which we trust will be taken into consideration for future similar cases, we have formally complained on
two counts which we consider serious:
1) In the ASL/Brescia Order No 6 of 30/07/2014 point d) they recommend the
"isolation of the horse F Saphira, microchip number 968000004927778 in a stable, completely separated, until slaughter or euthanasia"
. The latter phrase allows for the possibility of putting to sleep an AIE positive horse, something which is
not considered an option in the current laws
and which is actually considered inacceptable by the code of ethics of the Brescia Veterinary code which in article 34 states:
"Euthanasia of an animal is only to be carried out by a Veterinary Surgeon and can be done in order to avoid mental or physical suffering on the part of the animal in care or unbearable pain and in cases permitted by the law." It is the professional responsibility of the Veterinary Surgeon to guarantee, in the case of ending an animal’s life, that this should be done with the utmost respect and with the intent to bring about death in the least painful and stressful manner possible."
2) In the transport schedule it is not specified whether the equid is destined for the food chain or not.
"It is unconscionable that in 2014, so many years after the first Ministry of Health Order, that this kind of brutality is still going on. After years of our campaining, even the biggest experts in infectious diseases agree with the statement that EIA has such a small risk of transmission and development that it no longer requires a national control scheme
declares Sonny Richichi, President of IHP
To kill a horse because it is EIA positive is unacceptable. Saphira was condemned to a hideous end after just one day of quarantine, without even giving her owner the time to find a solution. We look for a firm stand on this by the Order of Veterinary Surgeons and the FNOVE (National Federation of Italian Veterinary Surgeons)."
(in the picture: some of our AIE positive horses)
What we do
Meet our team
Equine infectious anaemia