Animal Welfare

The Animal Health Trust is dedicated to fighting disease as a vital contribution towards animal welfare. We believe that the problems of disease are the main cause of suffering and pain in animals today. Although cases of cruelty and abuse command the newspaper headlines, they are fortunately rare compared to the thousands of animals suffering from disease and illness - often in silence and alone.The Trust takes its responsibilities for the animals in its care very seriously. The animals we study receive the highest levels of veterinary care, love and affection - the same as other people's animals entrusted to our care in our hospitals. In fact we believe that the animals we care for are some of the most pampered you will find anywhere!Scientific research for both human and animal benefit raises a major ethical dilemma - can the research be justified by the wider benefit accruing from the scientific work?

We would like to emphasise, that the Trust undertakes no research that uses animals for the testing of human products - all our work is designed to benefit animals directly. Our programme is focused mainly on genetic research to eradicate inherited diseases, some of which can be extremely debilitating, and the development of new vaccines against infectious disease. Much of this work can be done through computer simulations and tissue samples but before a new vaccine can be licensed, it is a legal requirement that it must first be tested with the target species to make sure it works.

Our testing uses Welsh Mountain ponies which following the trials are typically re-homed as children's riding ponies. In the few cases where we are working with the more contagious diseases, it is possible that an animal may become a carrier. Under these circumstances, the Home Office regulations sensibly preclude the possibility of re-homing and the attendant risk of disease transmission to healthy animals outside the Trust. Vaccines developed in this way prevent immense suffering and death to literally thousands of horses around the world. The potential consequences of an outbreak of a particular virulent form of equine influenza were seen a few years ago in Asia when no vaccine was available. In China, which has no effective equine inoculation programme, some 60,000 horses died and several times that number suffered long-term debilitating effects. Such catastrophic epidemics are prevented in this country and Europe, largely because of the work of the Trust in developing effective vaccines and through our diligent surveillance and investigation of all outbreaks of infectious diseases in horses. If you own a dog you will almost certainly have had it vaccinated against the killing disease, distemper. The Animal Health Trust pioneered the research for this vaccine and thousands of dogs have been saved from a long illness, convulsions and death because of this work.

We hope this short account of just some of the life saving work of the Animal Health Trust will encourage you to support our endeavours to improve animal welfare

To find out more about the AHT why not visit their website www.aht.org.uk


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