On January 17, the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center for large animals announced that it had effected a voluntary equine quarantine for Equine Herpes Virus (“EHV-1”) and will only handle emergency cases, limited elective and outpatient cases, and field services until further notice. The voluntary quarantine is in place after a horse admitted to the hospital tested positive for EHV-1 and equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (“EHM”). Two additional horses housed on New Bolton’s property have also tested positive for EHV-1.
New Bolton is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to contain the infection; Orders of Special Quarantine are imposed at properties in Berks, Chester, Dauphin and York Counties and State Animal Health Officials in other states that may have been exposed to the virus have been notified.
EHV-1 viruses tend to spread throughout geographic areas, in part due to the virus’ latent nature. Facility owners and shippers alike need to concern themselves with best practices to prevent infection at their facilities while minimizing their legal liability.
In most cases, equine facility owners and caretakers have a duty to care for their charges in at least a reasonable manner. During the course of local outbreaks, what is “reasonable” depends on an assessment of many factors including proximity to areas of the outbreak, entry of those exposed to other at-risk facilities, whether your ambulatory veterinarian or farrier and their vehicles have exposure, and the frequency of horses shipping in. In evaluating these and other factors, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable veterinarian to ensure you fully understand the scope of risk at your facility.
If you determine your facility is at risk, veterinary expertise should be sought to develop preventative bio-security protocols reasonably tailored to your risk and feasibility of implementation. Depending on your situation, prudence may require locking down the facility to outside people and horses, shipping with your own unexposed rigs, fully disinfecting shared portions of the facility between usages such as the wash-stall, keeping horses separated inside and out with an eye towards avoiding touching over shared stall walls and fence lines, limiting movement of horses throughout the facility and preventing use of shared spaces such as the arena or grazing areas, limiting each horse to its own equipment including the often overlooked shared brushes, and isolating horses that have recently travelled and requiring use of coveralls, gloves, shoe covers, and disinfectant for each horse handled.
Finally, while the first priority of good horsemen and women is the well being of the horse, facility owners should not overlook an opportunity to protect themselves from liability. Depending on the risk of exposure, type of operation, and feasibility of implementing biosecurity protocols, liability limiting measures may vary. In certain cases, it may be enough to advise of the risks as determined by you and your veterinarian and introduce preventative protocols as well as protocols for treatment in the event an outbreak occurs. In other instances, it may be advisable to also require a release from boarders and/or an agreement wherein the boarders are required to strictly comply with all protocols in place. This is especially true in instances where boarders are responsible for all or part of their horses’ care and monitoring compliance with set protocols would be difficult. If there is already a boarding agreement in place, a review of that agreement to ensure that it covers liability in the event of an outbreak is highly recommended.
For further information on limiting your legal liability relating to the spread of EHV-1 or similar infections, contact the author, Karin Corbett, Esquire at 484-531-1702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT KARIN CORBETT
Karin Corbett is a business attorney and litigator who effectively prevents, resolves and litigates legal disputes for businesses and individuals alike in a variety of industries; but her focus is primarily in the construction & real estate and equine industries.
As a construction and real estate attorney, Ms. Corbett negotiates contracts, analyzes and advises clients on all types of business matters, litigates contract claims.
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