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COVID-19 and Pennsylvania Equine Boarding Businesses

COVID-19 and Pennsylvania Equine Boarding Businesses
By Laura Kenny
Amid the COVID-19 business closings and stay-at-home orders, many Pennsylvania horse boarding farms are looking for guidance on how the “Life Sustaining Business” mandate applies to them. At this time, there is no official horse-specific statement from the Department of Agriculture, but when the question was brought up on a call with PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, he urged all farm owners to follow the guidance for Farms and On-Farm Delivery to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It is essential to continue caring for the animals, but beyond that, private businesses may decide individually whether to allow boarder visits. He suggested that businesses seek legal counsel before making a decision.
The Secretary also encouraged any boarding businesses that do allow boarder visits to offer scheduled appointments for anyone who visits the farm, including boarders, farriers, veterinarians, etc. Some managers are utilizing online scheduling tools to allot time blocks. All visitors must practice social distancing (at least 6 feet between people at all times) and good cleaning measures. This may be a good solution for self-care boarding facilities where closing to boarders is not an option.
Governor Wolf’s statewide mitigation effort suggests no more than 10 people together at one time, so that would be an appropriate guide for the maximum number of people at the farm at any given time. Residents of the 33 counties under the Stay-at-Home orders (Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Forest, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland and York as of 3/31/2020) should not visit their boarding facilities except to perform “Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies…” through at least April 30.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) developed a suggested protocol to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in equestrian facilities. This 2-page document would be easy to print and post in the barn. In addition to what was stated above, the AAEP recommends prohibiting non-essential visitors, sending home anyone with symptoms, and using every other cross-tie. Any communal items (wheelbarrows, pitchforks, spray nozzles, gate latches) should be disinfected frequently, preferably by whoever touched it last. Follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and use effective disinfectant products. Avoid sharing equipment as much as possible, and wash hands frequently.
If your business is struggling financially due to the COVID-19 outbreak, check out the funding resources available as compiled by the American Horse Council (scroll down to the section “Coronavirus Resources for Equine Businesses”). The PA Department of Community and Economic Development also has a landing page for businesses affected by COVID-19.
If you are a boarder, please respect the decision your barn owner has made to close or stay open. There may be issues with liability insurance if they allow visitors onto the farm during this pandemic. At the end of the day, it is their property (perhaps even their home), and they are trying to keep their families and employees safe.
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