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Rachel Kosmal McCart is a lifelong horsewoman and the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, PC, an equine law firm based in the Portland, Oregon area. Rachel is a member of the New York, California, Oregon and Washington State bars and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Rachel currently competes in three-day eventing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

EHV-1 Outbreak and Potential Liability for Equine Event Hosts

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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
  3. 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...
 We hope this information helps you make an informed decision!


deb.cablao%intel.com said...

Rachel, thank you for this insight. You bring forward some really important considerations for those of us who are planning horse-related events that are scheduled for the next couple of weeks. These are much appreciated and timely.

Anonymous said...

Rachel, it is great to see such insight and thought into the equine business and this unique risk.... An an Equine Insurance Specialist we are having extensive conversations with our customers regarding this. I both welcome and appreciate your continued insight and comments

Unknown said...

Rachel, What if you have a boarder that insists on going to shows and you have no space for quarantine and the vet recommends noone in noone out?

Unknown said...

This article does NOT cover the liability of barn owners, except when barn owners decide to host an event. What actions must barn owners take to avoid liability in relation to this latest outbreak? And the same for trainers, vets, farriers and others who come into contact with multiple horses?

chris said...

What about a barn that is still accepting new horses on the property without quarantine? My barn is very lax and would accept cutting horses - even from Utah!

I've talked to the barn manager and he just shrugged his shoulders. My horses stalls are very close to the general arena - 10 feet, so I'm concerned about horses in that general area.

Rachel McCart, Equine Legal Solutions said...

Please stay tuned for an article later today covering the topics you requested.