Our animal welfare policy

Our animal welfare policy describes the standard behaviours and actions that all Brooke employees - and those representing Brooke within partner organisations or as consultants - are expected to demonstrate to respect the needs and feelings of animals involved with any aspect of the our work.

Equines carrying slate across a river. Credit/Copyright - Richard Dunwoody MBE

Equines carrying slate across a river. Credit/Copyright - Richard Dunwoody MBE

These standards reflect actions which are within our control. Brooke employees who understand them and act in accordance will be able to show how to have a positive impact on working equine animals.


  • State non-negotiable behaviour expected when working for, or representing, Brooke.
  • Clarify who is responsible for managing animal welfare risk.

Our concept of animal welfare

We recognise that animal welfare is a concept which applies to all animals. It includes both physical and mental components which are influenced by:

  • the environment in which the animal lives and works
  • human attitudes and practices
  • available resources.

Animals have the capacity to enjoy positive emotions and to suffer from negative ones. Animal welfare will remain poor if comfort, health and life-sustaining needs are not met.

Equine animals work in the service of humans, particularly in the developing world. It’s our view that people who use or keep these animals to support their livelihoods have a responsibility for ensuring their animals’ welfare needs are met, now and in the future, and that they should be supported in doing this.

A proactive and effective workforce

Our mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable working horses, donkeys and mules in developing countries. Through the relief of immediate suffering and the creation of an environment around the animal which will provide for their needs, these animals will be cared for, managed and used in a welfare-friendly manner.

To achieve this mission we need an effective workforce, dedicated to responding to animals in need and creating cultures of lasting compassion and care for animals. Brooke employees should not expect others to change how they care for, manage, use or communicate about equine animals without demonstrating the change needed to improve the animals’ quality of life.

Minimum standards for working equine welfare practices

The following minimum standards are to be respected and implemented by all staff within Brooke UK, USA, Netherlands and countries hosting direct or partner projects. Failure to meet these minimum standards is considered unacceptable by Brooke and may affect future funding or result in a mandatory animal welfare audit.


Programme planning and implementation

Employees must:

  • work within local and national legal requirements relating to animals and animal welfare
  • specifically state in planning documentation how the animals will benefit from the funded work
  • use, and reference the evidence used, to reach conclusions on animal welfare targets and exit plans
  • identify and prioritise welfare issues using methods agreed with Brooke UK
  • include animal welfare assessments and agreed sampling strategies as a component of baselines, monitoring and evaluations (with the exception of advocacy activities)
  • ensure quality of care is never compromised in efforts to reach target numbers of coverage and uptake
  • identify welfare risks associated with each activity and identify measures to reduce and monitor these risks
  • have the required animal welfare skillsets and be provided with support where needed
  • equip field staff with locally sourced equipment when available and suitable.

Veterinary activities

Employees must:

  • make the patient’s short and long term welfare the priority in clinical decision making (ie, do no harm)
  • work constructively with local veterinary and para-veterinary trained professionals
  • use all anti-infective medications strategically to reduce resistance
  • utilise optimal pain relief as the first priority (pharmacological and non-pharmacological actions)
  • ensure stakeholders are capable of administering the full course of prescribed treatment to an animal, demonstrating welfare-friendly approaches where necessary
  • provide clear and simple messages on issue prevention
  • attend to emergency cases which are within the capabilities of available health care professionals, always providing basic symptomatic treatment
  • not attempt any veterinary procedure, including surgery, requiring a degree of sterility, expertise or equipment that is not available or mastered in the area
  • initiate euthanasia discussions with owners early, once all treatment and recovery options have been clearly thought through and the animal is diagnosed with intractable pain or is unfit to ever return to work.

Euthanasia procedures

Employees must:

  • avoid animals being transported live before euthanasia wherever possible
  • gain informed consent from the owner or recognised authority
  • ensure it is carried out by trained staff, using a recognised, legal and the most humane method
  • carry out and monitor safe and legal disposal of animal carcasses
  • carry out the procedure as soon as possible to avoid further suffering.

Advocacy, research and welfare assessment

All findings must:

  • be communicated to the UK and wider organisation
  • be applied to programme work where appropriate to help animals.

Community engagement

Employees must:

  • include plans to address any relevant welfare issues which have not been identified by the community members themselves
  • have acquired, or be supported to develop, adequate knowledge, skills and experience to deliver welfare messages which are technically correct and relevant to the needs of the animals.

Welfare messages

Employees producing welfare messages within Information Education Communication (IEC) materials, animal care manuals or any other Brooke-branded communication materials must:

  • have content approved by a relevant, nominated person (in the UK, country programme or both) for technical accuracy and agreed Brooke practice prior to printing and dissemination
  • ensure the welfare of animals is never compromised in the process of producing materials

Contact with animals

Employees and relevant third parties must:

  • receive theoretical and practical training relevant to their role before working unaccompanied with animals
  • be competent and confident to meet the Brooke’s expectations before working unaccompanied with animals
  • manage their personal health and safety risk
  • be attentive and non-threatening to the animal at all times, ensuring that unnecessary suffering is avoided

Handling and restraining animals

Employees must:

  • understand the theory behind restraint methods and techniques, using this to inform decision-making during any interaction
  • use a lead rope and halter/head-collar of appropriate size and fit for the animal (with the exception of foals)
  • make handling and restraint decisions based on the principle that the ‘cost’ to the animal is in proportion to its benefit in the short and long term - this could include terminating the procedure if the animal becomes disproportionately distressed by the restraint
  • only use any additional restraint (blindfold, leg lift, nose twitch, hobbles, additional people) after other methods of restraint have been attempted and found to be unsuccessful
  • only use chemical restraint (sedatives) where justified, and ensure that the animal has adequately recovered from sedation following the procedure before being returned to owner
  • never use casting, ear twitching, tongue/jaw twitching, an excessive number of handlers or any other form of severe, painful or distressing restraint
  • never pull the tail, ears or legs; never hit, kick, beat or block the nostrils of animals for any reason, or use any other means to move the animal which may cause pain or distress
  • not ignore unacceptable handling and restraint techniques observed by stakeholders during field work and immediately advise on a suitable alternative.

Using animals for training

Employees must:

  • have the necessary skills and experience to teach the material
  • know when the animal’s welfare is being compromised
  • create a safe environment for the animals, staff and trainees
  • check the animals prior to training to ensure they are fit for inclusion
  • supervise those interacting with the animals to ensure welfare-friendly practicals
  • remove animals from training activities if welfare becomes compromised
  • never perform veterinary procedures on animals unless it is necessary and proportionate for diagnosis or treatment of the animal
  • provide the same level of care for all animals regardless of ownership or purpose
  • not transport animals for training purposes
  • not delay treatment that will relieve the animal’s suffering
  • not delay euthanasia unnecessarily.

Using animals for research activities

Employees must:

  • not carry out invasive procedures
  • read and follow procedures of the research policy and good research practice guidelines, which includes an ethical review
  • adhere to the approved research methodology, prioritising and addressing any welfare concerns of the animals used prior to starting the research.

Using animals for fundraising, publicity and other non- programme activities

Employees and visitors must:

  • consult the Animal Welfare and Research team at the concept stage of a visit to be briefed on welfare risk management and support consistent with the animal’s needs
  • never interfere with programme activities addressing an animal in need in the field
  • never load, stop a loaded animal or request the animal repeat a journey for any reason
  • not stage photographs which compromise welfare.

Hosting visitors in country programmes

Employees must:

  • brief visitors, for example as part of security briefings, on how they must communicate and behave in situations where they feel the welfare of an animal is being compromised and wish to take action
  • expose visitors to the true welfare state of animals, programme successes and challenges and never hide them or present false circumstances
  • carry out a debrief with visitors to ensure their questions are fully addressed and the Brooke’s stance/actions are fully understood.

Roles and responsibilities

The UK Board of Trustees

The Brooke Board of Trustees is responsible for reviewing and approval of our Animal Welfare Policy every two years.

Country CEO or regional representatives

The country CEO or director is responsible for ensuring employees understand our animal welfare policy, and that all employees (including partner programmes) comply with the minimum standards relative to their roles.

Managers in the UK and overseas

Managers are responsible for ensuring their team members understand our animal welfare policy and comply with the minimum standards relative to their roles.

The UK Animal Welfare and Research team

The AW&R team is responsible for making recommendations for the revision of the animal welfare policy as needed but at a minimum of every two years. Additionally, the team is responsible for the development of guidelines to support employees in meeting and exceeding the minimum standards specified in this document.

All employees in UK and overseas

The welfare of working equine animals is the responsibility of everyone. Even when employees are not directly working with animals, they must help to ensure the animal welfare policy and minimum standards are being implemented in all country programmes. If they are concerned that this is not happening, this must be raised with the senior welfare advisor at Brooke UK for follow-up and support.

Brooke UK’s senior animal welfare adviser

The UK’s senior welfare adviser (SWA) is the animal welfare policy holder. The SWA serves as the first point of contact for revisions or questions about this policy.