Why Ventilation Is Important For Animals Being Transported By Road

Modern cars come equipped with excellent air conditioning and heating systems, to ensure the utmost comfort during a journey. The benefits of these components in a long journey are self-evident and once you are used to them, it is hard to imagine travel without such luxuries.

Animals being transported in trailers or floats are not so lucky. They are unable to close a window and block the stream of airborne dust, pollen and bugs that enters their air space during a journey. They cannot choose to have a travel break and get out of their vehicle. Their conditions are governed wholly by the transport and conditions we provide for them and, due to factors such as pollution and heat, often these conditions can cause stress, discomfort and illness. Luckily, just as our cars have been improved with air conditioning, we can improve the comfort of journeys for our animals through the use of proper ventilation. Training our horses, and ourselves, for competitive events and races requires a high degree of commitment and emotional investment. It is therefore imperative that, in order to do justice to the effort and time we have put into preparation for events and competitions, we enable ourselves and our animals to perform to the best of our abilities. Training, diet, exercise and grooming are all important factors in the run-up to a competition, but another vitally important part of successful preparation which is often underestimated is the transportation of animals to events. Research has shown that animal health is affected during transit and aspects to be considered include restraints, positioning, high density of animals and ventilation. Ventilation problems which arise are largely to do with heating (especially overheating) and pollution experienced during transit. In Elvira Currie’s study on improving the welfare of animals during transit, she asserts that transport is “considered to be the greatest predisposing factor contributing to severe lower respiratory tract infection in horses” with the respiratory system being affected by dehydration and pollution. Furthermore, Currie states research by Racklyeft, Raidal and Love in 2000 which found that strenuous exercise immediately after transport greatly increases the risk of respiratory infection. Therefore if your horse is suffering the effects of poor ventilation, affecting their respiratory system, it is inadvisable to let them go on to compete in any event. Health problems related to overheating in horses and other animals include shock, diarrhoea, kidney failure, muscle cramping and stiffness. It is clear that if your animal is suffering from any of these ill effects following a journey, they will not be able to do justice to their abilities and experience in competition. It is possible to empathise with our animals when it comes to comfortable and safe transportation. Would you want to run a race feeling dehydrated or having difficulty breathing? No; you would want to feel well-rested, well-prepared and at the top of your health. This is exactly what our animals need too. Ventilation must be effective to minimise the risks of dehydration and pollution. Ideally a ventilation system will provide greater air flow, filtered air and will not be affected by adverse weather conditions. Providing your horses with the optimum conditions for travel will ensure their comfort and health during a journey and will also help to ensure that your hard work and preparation for an event or race is not wasted. In addition to this, effective ventilation for your horse(s) during transport can save you from expensive veterinary bills, but most importantly, you will save your animals from discomfort, stress, pain and the possibility of long-term illness. Instead you can be sure that you and your horse will reach your destination on top form and ready to win! The reason for ensuring good ventilation for our animals during transit, be they horses, greyhounds or even alpacas, is to provide the best possible welfare for the creatures we have responsibility for, ensuring their comfort and well-being. Currently, standard ventilation methods tend to be straightforward windows and vents. There are a number of issues associated with these – firstly, they can be affected by the weather as they may need to be shut against extreme conditions such as heavy rain and hail. Also, when rear vents such as doors are open, exhaust fumes can actually be sucked right into your animal’s trailer or float and through its air space. By keeping these doors open, you may seem to be doing the right thing, by providing a method of ventilation which is not directly adjacent to the exhaust outlet of a vehicle. However, the effects of air pressure when a vehicle gathers speed are such that the exhaust fumes will go underneath the trailer or float but will then be drawn in through the rear doors. {sidebar id=3}Animal welfare rules and guidelines address the issue of ventilation. The Department of Local Government and Regional Development for Western Australia has published a Code of Practice specifically for horse transportation which states that the air circulation in enclosed vehicles should be sufficient to prevent bacterial build-up and that a mechanical means of forcing the circulation of air may be necessary for enclosed vehicles. Another point made is that the exhaust system of the towing vehicle must not pollute the air inside the animal’s transport. As we have seen, current methods of ventilation do not necessarily prevent this from happening. RSPCA Australia advises that good ventilation is vital to avoid heatstroke; one of the factors it attributes heatstroke to is lack of acclimatisation to heat. This is a potential problem during transport as the float or trailer could become heated quickly, particularly on a hot day or if there are a number of animals contained within. When the ambient temperature outside is 22⁰C, the temperature in a vehicle can rise to over 47⁰C within 60 minutes. Clearly this is going to cause severe problems for animals within vehicles but through ensuring effective ventilation, risks are reduced greatly. For those animals, such as dogs, which cool down via evaporative cooling (panting), adequate airflow is required. It is clear from the emphasis placed on the importance of ventilation during animal transport by the above authorities that this is a critical area when it comes to the safe and humane transport of horses, alpacas, greyhounds, and any other animals which are subject to travelling in similar conditions. By planning ahead and exploring the options available for suitable ventilation you will keep your animals healthy, happy and in the best condition to event, race, or just enjoy life to the full.

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