Last Saturday I was about to sit down to dinner when my phone went off with a sms with two words, “colic surgery”, dreaded words to anyone that loves horses. Just 18 minutes later at around 5:30pm I was preparing the operating theatre for surgery, though the patient had yet to arrive. At 7:15pm the patient was walked into the theatre and anaesthetised, and at around 11:15pm the patient was moved to recovery. Through the night the duty doctor and I checked the patient every 30 minutes, and I left around 8:30am when someone arrived to relieve me.
Unlike the UK there is no pet insurance here in Slovakia. The university tries to help owners by only charging for the consumables used in the treatment and not for personnel time; however in a country where the average monthly wage is only around 400 euros the bill is still crippling. In the UK where everything is more expensive even this would be crippling to the average horse owner.
This is why I believe that horse insurance is an essential for any horse owner, and wish that it was available here. In fact every horse owner should have a minimum of at least public liability cover after Mirvahedy -V- Henley in 2003 set a precedent for the owner being liable for the actions of their horse even when they are not there. This cover protects the owner against the costs arising from any accidents involving their horse, especially important in the increasingly litigious society in the UK today.
Accidents happen and will always happen, especially where animals are concerned. Sometimes you leave them overnight to return to injuries in the morning, or you may be walking them across the yard on a dark evening when they spoke and run into something. Compared to the UK the UVM Kosice is pretty slow with maybe 1 or 2 equine patients a week, however it is a small community and talking to UK colleagues it is not uncommon for them to have 15 surgeries a day (yes I am slightly jealous!).
Earlier this year during the AWF conference in London a case scenario was presented with a person living opposite a field containing horses calling the vet to an injured horse but not knowing who the owner was. Not exactly uncommon, however presenting a great ethical dilemma as whilst the vet has to provide first aid they are duty bound to relieve suffering – this means that they have the power to request a police presence to authorise the euthanasia of an animal if the owner is not contactable. Equine veterinary treatment is expensive even with just the costs of consumables and medication, and without owners consent and a chance of getting paid a vet cannot afford to start treatment.
Now imagine if it was compulsory for horse insurance coverage, a vet in this situation wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of treatment, and if it was in the horse’s best interest be able to proceed to treat the animal. In fact it would be better even for the owner who wouldn’t have to weigh the cost of the treatment into their already difficult decision.
Now there are numerous options for insuring your horse, with many different discounts available such as horse insurance from EL who offer 25% off when buying online. Personally I always believe it is better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have.