Biosecurity officers test a horse for the Hendra virus.
Biosecurity officers test a horse for the Hendra virus.

Downs vets want only Hendra vaccinated horses at events

DARLING Downs vets have called for all horse events to only be open to Hendra vaccinated horses.

In separate submissions to the Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the Hendra vaccine, vets Peter Lynch, Glen Laws and Chris Reardon said they believed the Hendra vaccine should be required for a horse to participate in a major event.

But some horse owners have told the inquiry they are concerned about reactions to the vaccine and feel "forced" into vaccinating against their will.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has prosecuted three vets for treating unvaccinated horses leading to some surgeries to refuse to see an ill horse unless it is vaccinated against Hendra.

Upper Lockyer horse owner Debbie Hage said she felt forced into getting her horses vaccinated when vets said they would not attend an unvaccinated horse.

"I have been forced to vaccinate all my horses as vets in Toowoomba will not treat unvaccinated horses. I feel I have had a gun put to my head to force me to vaccinate with what I feel is an unsafe vaccine with very little research," she said.

But Toowoomba vet Dr Lynch said he had vaccinated "several hundred horses" and reactions had been "extremely rare" and resolved quickly.

He said the risk of exposure at a public event was too great to let unvaccinated horses compete.

"All equestrian events must become fully vaccinated. It is impossible to keep members of the public away from the horses," he said.

Similarly, Warwick-based vet Dr Reardon said he believed all horse owners should be encouraged to vaccinate their horses and vaccination should be mandatory for participation in major horse events.

Darling Downs vet Dr Laws submitted to the inquiry that only allowing vaccinated horses to take part in events could stop any potential crisis.

"Equestrian events at the Brisbane Exhibition have enforced Hendra vaccination, which I believe is the necessary step to prevent any major biosecurity crisis.

"I believe other major horse events do not have adequate policies or facilities for isolation to manage a positive Hendra virus horse."

Inquiry chair, Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher, said a rift had opened up between some horse owners and vets.


Horse owner Ben Ryan and Pekarra Dazzling Deputy.Melissa Cruden Crazy Horse Designs
Horse owner Ben Ryan and Pekarra Dazzling Deputy. Melissa Cruden Crazy Horse Designs

Vaccine convert wins reining comps

BEN Ryan had heard horror claims about the Hendra vaccine - lame horses, a dodgy approvals process, vets not treating sick unvaccinated horses.

He didn't want to vaccinate his Pekarra Dazzling Deputy that he planned to enter in a number of prestige reining competitions.

But when a part-owner and a trusted vet insisted the vaccine was safe and necessary if he wanted to compete in certain horse competitions, Mr Ryan relented.

"Even though I took his word on it, I was still a little apprehensive about the vaccination and the idea of it possibly jeopardising a successful outcome at the reining show," he said.

Pekarra Dazzling Deputy went on to win two of Queensland's most prestigious reining competitions, the Pacific Coast Reining Futurity and the Queensland Open Reining Futurity.

But the success hasn't convinced Mr Ryan the vaccine should be mandatory.

"I don't think anyone should be forced to vaccinate their horses," he said.

"I think at the end of the day it should be up to the owner and what they feel comfortable with."

How dangerous is Hendra?

SEVEN humans have caught Hendra virus, four have died.

The latest figures show there have been 41 outbreaks of Hendra virus in Queensland - all involving horses getting infected. As a result, 73 horses have died or been euthanised.

The Australian Veterinary Association says if a person catches Hendra, their chance of dying is 57%. If a horse catches it, its chance of dying is 79%.

So far, there is no evidence humans can catch Hendra direct from a bat. It appears humans can only get infected from a horse.

The Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the Hendra vaccine is examining reported side effects from the vaccine and vets refusing to treat horses that have not been vaccinated.

It came after complaints from horse owners that after the vaccine horses were showing symptoms ranging from swelling, stiff necks and lethargy through to inability to stand and even to death.

The inquiry is also looking at how vets are approaching treating unvaccinated horses after Workplace Health and Safety launched prosecutions against three vets for not taking reasonable care because they allegedly failed to wear protective equipment when examining unvaccinated horses.

The committee is due to deliver its report on October 22.