Racing Queensland has welcomed the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) announcement of a commitment to continue free microchipping for standardbred foals and the opportunity for them to be vaccinated against the deadly Hendra Virus.
QRIC initiated the service in October 2017 following a new HRA rule mandating all standardbred foals born in 2017 and beyond to be microchipped.
It also announced that owners would have the opportunity to receive the first of a series of three Hendra vaccinations.
Originally offered for one season only, QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett said the initiative had seen positive animal welfare outcomes for the harness code.
“Last year’s trial program led to 81 foals or 30 per cent of the 2017 foal crop receiving their first Hendra vaccine, and this was a huge increase from the number of foals previously vaccinated against the disease," Mr Barnett said.
"Providing the veterinary resources and the first injection of the Hendra vaccine course free to the Harness racing industry has ensured the future welfare of these foals."
Racing Queensland Chief Operating Officer Adam Wallish said: "Racing Queensland welcomes this announcement that will continue to provide positive welfare outcomes for standardbreds, while also helping to defray costs for harness participants and owners."
Mr Barnett said the commission would continue to provide microchipping and the first-round vaccination with the expectation that owners complete the full course of vaccinations.
However, he warned that if a majority of participants receiving the service did not take up the Hendra vaccination offer, the program, including free microchipping would be discontinued.
Earlier this year, a ground-breaking QRIC funded study confirmed vaccination against the deadly Hendra virus does not affect the racing performance of thoroughbred horses and this Standardbred program has also seen no reports of adverse effects in vaccinated foals.
QRIC Veterinary Services and Animal Welfare Director Dr Martin Lenz said he was encouraged by the response to this campaign that saw QRIC work closely with the harness code for an outcome that protected racing animals, their owners and trainers against Hendra.
“I’d like to acknowledge all participants for taking this responsible action, including one owner who made the decision to vaccinate his full crop of foals after the unfortunate loss of an unvaccinated brood mare to a twisted bowel,” Dr Lenz said.