At Equine Legal Solutions, we have received a number of questions from our clients about the EHV-1 outbreak. Many of our clients wanted to know whether they should cancel or postpone events scheduled for this weekend or the following week. Here's our advice:
- First and foremost, educate yourself about EHV-1 and understand exactly what's going on right now in your state. Dr. Tanis MacDonald, DVM has written a very informative article in layperson's terms about what EHV-1 is, why this outbreak is different, and how to prevent infection.Don't rely on what you hear from friends - go to reliable sources, such as www.thehorse.com, your state veterinarian's website, and the National Cutting Horse Association's updates (the current outbreak is linked to an NCHA event in Ogden, Utah and the NCHA is being very proactive about gathering and disseminating accurate information). However, keep in mind that the information on these websites may not be up-to-the-minute.
- Second, understand the real risks of EHV-1 infection associated with hosting this particular event at your facility. Don't make a decision based solely upon what you've read so far. Call your veterinarian and talk it over with them. Make sure your vet understands the type of event and where participants will be coming from. And then, take your vet's advice.
- Third, if you decide to go ahead with the event, understand the legal implications of that decision:
- If you host an event, knowing that there is a risk of EHV-1 infection, you have assumed that risk. But, the event participants have not necessarily assumed that risk - they may not even know about the current outbreak. So, to prevent potential liability, you should inform each participant of the risk of EHV-1 infection associated with the event before they arrive at your facility. Rather than putting your own interpretation on the EHV-1 information, it is better to get permission from reliable sources to reprint their articles on the subject. Recommend that participants talk it over with their own veterinarians before deciding to attend. If participants are adequately informed and decide to attend the event anyway, they have assumed the risk that their horses could become infected.
- If you host an event and your facility also has boarders or other horses not participating in the event, you should make sure that those horses' owners understand the EHV-1 risk and agree with your decision to continue with the event. If they disagree, and then their horses become infected with EHV-1, you could be liable.
- If you host an event at your facility, and there is an outbreak of infection, consider that you will then have a duty to manage it, including implementing biosecurity measures to halt the spread of infection. If you don't implement appropriate measures, or don't do so quickly enough, you could have potential liability. Keep in mind that your management of the situation will be evaluated from the comfort of hindsight...