Causes of welfare issues in working horses and donkeys

An animal's welfare will be poor if comfort, health and life-sustaining needs are not met.

Equines walking along a polluted river in India

Lack of food and water

  • Malnutrition: being underweight or lacking something they need in their diet
  • Dehydration: not having enough to drink while working or resting

Disease and injury

  • Lameness: being unable to walk normally and having pain in their limbs
  • Parasites: being infected with parasites inside or on their body
  • Body wounds: having an open lesion on their body

Harsh environmental conditions

  • Working underage: carrying heavy loads before their body can cope with the weight
  • Heat stress: becoming overheated which can lead to death if left untreated
  • Overworking and exhaustion: experiencing extreme fatigue and susceptibility to other conditions

Behaviour problems and restriction

  • Fear or distress: having bad experiences with humans or something in their surroundings
  • Apathy and depressive behaviour: not showing interest in their surroundings
  • Restricted movement: feeling uncomfortable or not being able to move freely
  • Limited natural behaviour: not being able to run, groom, roll, graze, or socialise

Poor management practices

  • Bad housing conditions: having no shelter or shade, or being tied badly by their legs
  • Bad hoof condition: having overgrown, broken or unbalanced feet
  • Harmful practices: being subjected to traditional treatments, mutilations, or being abandoned after work

Facts and figures

Among the horses, donkeys and mules we work with across the world typically:

  • More than 60 percent are underweight
  • More than 50 percent are unable to walk normally
  • More than 50 percent have abnormal hooves
  • 15 percent show signs of fear towards people when they are approached by a person

(Aggregated data from Brooke's Standardised Equine Based Welfare Assessment Tool, 2011-2014)

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We work with animal owners and users, service providers and policymakers to find sustainable solutions towards their long term welfare.