I apologize if this topic is found to be distasteful to any horse owner who happens to read
this post, BUT I feel as though this must be addressed in a public way so that we can all do
better by those horses that we love and stand to lose at some point. As of May 1, 2018, the
options for humane equine euthanasia have changed for us here in Wisconsin due to the
finding of residual barbiturates in commercial dog food that led to the death of several dogs. While this has been in the news for some time, it hasn’t been until very recently that
rendering companies have had to change their policies regarding their use of horses that
were humanely euthanized with barbiturates. Barbiturates can still be used in this way, but it requires that the horse be disposed of through cremation, digestion, burial or disposal in a public landfill, with additional expense or logistical issues apparent with each of these alternatives. There are other humane chemical protocols that do not use these barbiturates, but problems may arise with other required medications within these protocols, which the rendering companies may also prohibit. I am uncertain as to what other equine veterinarians and their owners are facing in other parts of the U.S., but here in Wisconsin this situation has made our options for humane euthanasia for our equine patients, as well as disposal, very limited. It is, therefore, very important that we bring this out into the open and have a discussion about what options are out there for each of us in different parts of the U.S., as well as even in different stabling/housing situations within our own “backyards”.
I encourage horse owners to have this discussion with their veterinarian now, before an
emergency occurs, so that a horse does not suffer one moment longer than necessary during a crisis situation. It is also important to think about options prior to a scheduled euthanasia so that, during this very tough time, there isn’t the need to go over logistics when emotions are running high. It matters and it is important that this particular procedure be done right and, for now, preparation is key to that happening for all of us.