WH&S case in relation to Hendra virus risks while treating horses

Vet In Discussion With Horse OwnerEquine veterinarian, Dr Matt Morahan has been placed on a two-year, $3,000 good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to failing to meet safety standards while attending to an unvaccinated sick horse suspected of having the deadly Hendra virus. No conviction was recorded against Dr Morahan, however, costs of $1,000 were awarded against him.

The Southport Magistrates Court heard Dr Morahan was called to a property to inspect a sick horse at night in July 2013. The court heard he did not provide the owner with all the necessary protective equipment while testing the animal.

Southport (Qld) Magistrate’s Court Judge, Justice Joan White said she did not believe Dr Morahan was deliberately negligent. The Judge said:

“I believe you did what you thought was best practice at the time,” she said.

“You had a high level of compliance with the [Health and Safety] Act but not to the full level required.

“I don’t believe you were deliberately negligent.”

Dr Ian Fulton, President, Equine Veterinarians Australia (a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association) said:

“The judge’s decision in this case means this is a timely reminder that a veterinarian has a clear obligation under the Work Health and Safety Act to maintain the safety of the horse owner and others who are associated with the property.

“This is a very difficult position that veterinarians find themselves in. Things would likely have turned out quite differently if the horse had been vaccinated against this disease.

“Matthew Morahan is a highly skilled veterinarian and loyal member of the association. We will continue to support him, as we have been doing throughout this process.”

Source: Australian Veterinary Association