BVA encourages vets to discuss electric containment fences with clients to improve animal welfare

BVA is encouraging vets to speak to their livestock and equine clients about containment fences

We are encouraging vets to speak to their livestock and equine clients about containment fences, helping them to ensure they’re always used responsibly and safely. The BVA position on the use of electric containment fences in livestock and horses, launched this week, recognises that containment fences are currently a necessary option for many clients but makes several recommendations on how to limit their potential harm to animals and humans.

The position statement calls for further research into non-harmful alternatives for containing livestock and horses. In the meantime, BVA is offering the following top tips vets can give to their clients to make sure electric containment fences are used responsibly:

  • Signpost to best practice guidance such as: National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) Equine Industry Welfare Guidelines Compendium for Horses, Ponies and Donkeys and AHDB Electric fencing for livestock guidance.
  • Make sure the strength of current is appropriate for the species to avoid severe shocks. 
  • Carefully maintain batteries used to power electric fences to avoid any damage that could cause leakage, environmental hazards or potential toxicity in livestock. 
  • Attach flags to fencing or other visual markers to make sure that the fence is visible to livestock and horses.
  • Use highly visible tape- or rope-like electric fencing for horses.
  • Train livestock and horses so that they can get used to fencing in a controlled environment. Guidance on training livestock is available in the AHDB Electric fencing for livestock guidance.
  • Quickly identify, monitor and remove animals who do not respond to training.

British Veterinary Association President Simon Doherty said: “As vets, we know that electric containment fences are often a necessary part of rural life to allow animals to graze safely and efficiently. But we also recognise that they can harm or injure animals, especially if not correctly designed, installed or maintained.

“In our newly published position, we’re encouraging further research into alternative, non-harmful ways to contain livestock and horses. Until then, we’re supporting the responsible use of electric containment fences by providing vets with some top tips and references to kickstart conversations with their clients.

“We would also like to again remind members of the public about the importance of ensuring their dogs are kept under control around livestock. Chasing and attacks can lead to serious injuries, fatalities and spontaneous abortion for sheep and other livestock due to stress. We would encourage dog owners to ensure that any location where their dog is kept is secure and to keep their dog on a lead near livestock.”