Animal Health Trust and RVC PhD Studentship - Optimising equine biosecurity awareness and practices to reduce the welfare impact of infectious disease.

   The Royal Veterinary College

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  Dr J Ireland, Prof J Slater  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Supervisors: Dr Jo Ireland (Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, Centre for Preventive Medicine, Animal Health Trust), Professor Josh Slater (RVC), Dr Marnie Brennan (University of Nottingham)

Department: Clinical Science and Services

Equine infectious diseases, including endemic diseases such as Strangles and Equine Herpes Virus, represent a major welfare concern and result in considerable financial losses. Additionally, the threat of incursion of exotic equine infectious diseases to the UK is a significant concern. Biosecurity encompasses a range of hygiene and management practices, designed to reduce the introduction of infectious agents and to control their spread within populations or facilities.

Within the UK Thoroughbred industry, voluntary biosecurity recommendations for control and prevention of a range of infectious diseases are available. Biosecurity is highly relevant to the entire equestrian community, yet the extent to which existing guidelines are utilised in the non-racing equine population is currently unknown. Recent veterinary initiatives demonstrate increasing interest within the profession in improving equine biosecurity; however further information is required to inform tailored approaches for horse-owner education.

The first phase of this study will determine awareness and perceptions of biosecurity via a survey of randomly selected British horse-owners. In phase two, a subset of respondents will receive a site visit, including detailed evaluation of biosecurity facilities and premises spatial layout. This phase will be vital for obtaining accurate information about the facilities and current biosecurity practices on participating premises, and will inform the development of a practical biosecurity assessment tool for veterinary surgeons in phase three.

In phase three, using established methods for gathering expert opinions (Delphi technique), we will use equine health expert opinion in order to develop evidence-based owner and veterinary biosecurity guidelines. Owners’ perceptions regarding biosecurity will be assessed using behaviour change theories applied widely in human public health, identifying the most effective ways to deliver targeted owner education. Increasing owner engagement in disease prevention and improving uptake of biosecurity recommendations will reduce the risk posed by infectious diseases, improving equine health and welfare.

Interviews for studentships will be held on 27th October at the Animal Health Trust, with an expected start date of January 2016.

Funding Notes

This is a three year fully funded studentship, supported by the Horse Trust, and is open to Home/EU applicants only. The successful candidate will be registered with the RVC and based at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket.


HBLB Codes of Practice 2014. Available at:
Rogers, CW & Cogger, N (2010) A cross-sectional survey of biosecurity practices on Thoroughbred stud farms in New Zealand. NZ Vet. J. 58, 64-68.
Schemann, K et al (2011) Horse owners’ biosecurity practices following the first equine influenza outbreak in Australia. Prev. Vet. Med. 102, 304-314. Hsu, CC & Sandford, BA (2007) The Delphi Technique: Making Sense of Consensus. Available at: