NO HORSES: Dr St Clair Hayes from Boyne Tannum Vet Surgery has stopped treating horses.
NO HORSES: Dr St Clair Hayes from Boyne Tannum Vet Surgery has stopped treating horses. Brenda Strong

Vet closes practice to horses because of hendra threat

LOOKING after horses is something veterinary graduates are steering clear of.

That's the experience of Boyne Tannum Vet Surgery head Dr St Claire Hayes.

Dr Hayes has been advertising for some time trying to attract an extra vet to his current four-vet practice, but their first question when enquiring about the position is about horses.

It's one of the reasons why he has decided his clinic will no longer look after horses.

"As soon as they hear we look after horses they are no longer interested," he said.

Hendra virus was the problem, he said.

"While I don't mind looking after horses with hendra, I can't expose my other workers to the disease. Whenever you go to a sick horse you have to assume it could be hendra and that's a real problem.

"But horse owners are their own worst enemy in many ways. They have had adequate time to vaccinate against hendra virus, but so many of them won't do it."

While hendra is an issue when it comes to recruiting, Dr Hayes said the decision to no longer treat horses was also an economic one.

"Horses make up less than three per cent of our practice, and with all of the headaches caused by hendra we decided it just wasn't worth the worry.

What do you think should be the top priority for vets?

This poll ended on 07 July 2015.

Current Results

Cats and dogs.


Large animals like horses and cows.


It shouldn't matter, they should look after all animals.


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"Added to that, the greater majority of callouts to horses happen after hours, at night, when it becomes even less attractive."

However, he said, the Gladstone region was not left without any vets willing to care for horses.

"I know the Calliope clinic still treats horses and the vet at Agnes Water also.

"There are two mobile vets who travel from Rockhampton, a vet comes up from Gin Gin to look after the Miriam Vale area, but many horse owners are not prepared to pay for the cost of travel for those services."

Dr Hayes said small animals and large animals other than horses were the mainstay of his practice and the clinic was inundated with those animals.

A solution was to recruit another vet, but that was proving a virtual impossibility while horses were part of the equation.


  • Hendra virus can transfer from animals to people.
  • It can cause disease in horses but only rarely in humans. It can be transmitted from flying fox to horse, horse to horse, and horse to human.
  • Flying foxes are a natural reservoir for hendra virus. Flying foxes do not show any signs of illness when infected with the virus.
  • The potential seriousness of hendra virus infection for humans and horses requires that workplace health and safety measures, to prevent infection, should be implemented at workplaces where there is occupational contact with horses. Sound hygiene and biosecurity measures should be adopted as a routine practice for all horse contact.