Some Legal Considerations Regarding Horse Pre-purchase Exams  

by: Nancy S. Loving, DVM
Fancher v. Benson, 580 A.2d 51, 154 Vt. 583  (Vt., 1990)

July  13, 1990 

Plaintiff thereafter arranged for a prepurchase physical examination by a veterinarian, Dr. Barbara LeClair. Because there was some concern about swelling on the horse's legs, LeClair was asked to pay specific attention to that potential problem. On March 12, 1986, when LeClair arrived at the stable to perform the examination, Savoie gave her the UGA
report. [154 Vt. 586] Savoie testified that, "[a]s [Dr. LeClair] was reading through the symptoms that Promise had shown, her response was,... 

  Cardoso v. Hill, B193384 (Cal. App. 10/29/2007)
  (Cal. App., 2007)

  29, 2007

The evidence with respect to the existence and terms of an oral contract for the purchase and sale of two horses was conflicting, with Hill testifying as to her version of the agreement and Cardoso testifying as to his version. Substantial evidence in the record supports the court's finding that Hill orally agreed to purchase two horses for a total price of $80,000 without any condition precedent and that she took possession of the horses, through Ogden, in February 2005. We need not discuss. 

For more than 150 years veterinarians have been performing prepurchase exams, also referred to as vetting, purchase exams, and soundness exams.

The definition of "sound" in England in 1842 implied "an absence of disease or seeds of disease" as a qualification for being used for an intended purpose, noted Steve Soule, VMD, who gave a presentation on the subject of prepurchase exams at the 2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention, held Dec. 6-9 in Las Vegas, Nev. Soule explained that now we consider a horse as "serviceable," stressing the veterinarian neither passes nor fails a horse, but finds out what might be wrong and how this affects serviceability. With that in mind, Soule went on to say that the evaluation of "suitability" is not applicable to the veterinarian's role in a prepurchase exam (PPE).

In the late 1960s veterinarians established a standardized exam procedure in Britain, although their U.S. counterparts did not. Since then radiography, advanced imaging,
endoscopy, ultrasonography, and drug testing have evolved as procedures that
might be incorporated into the exam.

The veterinarian doing the exam should have a familiarity with the breed and/or discipline. Soule recommends that some parameters should be established during the initial
contact with the prospective buyer. The horse's full performance, medical, and
surgical histories should be made available by the seller. Because the equestrian world often sees crossover between sellers, buyers, horses, and veterinary practices, all such connections should be disclosed, but this should not necessarily preclude a veterinarian from performing the exam. Any seeming conflicts of interest should be documented in the record.

As "facilitator" of the purchase transaction, a veterinarian represents the buyer's best interest.
The objective is to determine as much as possible about the horse without being

Soule explained the five Ds:

Discovery of everything;
Disclosure of relevant information;
Documented findings;
Discussion of significance of findings so buyer can make an informed decision; and

Disclosure of relevant
information is the key part of the exam and should be made to both buyer and seller when possible, especially if there is a negative connotation relative to serviceability. That said, the medical records are exclusively the property of the buyer who is paying for the pre-purchase exam.

It is helpful if both buyer and seller are present and, at the very least, the buyer or agent should be immediately accessible by phone at the time of exam. It is important to remember that an agent might have a financial interest and, therefore, he or she might not convey all information accurately. Soule pointed out the critical importance of ensuring that the correct animal is identified and examined.

The exam can yield information that ends with a negotiated price or lease. If further lameness
work-up diagnostics are necessary, involved parties should reach an agreement as to which veterinarian will follow through, and who will pay for those services. Soule summarized his presentation by saying that reporting and documentation are critical in pre-purchase exams, in order to provide information to the buyer.