Has the time come for horse passports?


I have a feeling I’m going to be thrown on a spit and slowly roasted for suggesting this, but has the time come for New Zealand and Australia to have compulsory horse passports?

220px-NZPassportThe key arguments that will be rallied against the idea are pretty predictable: “beware of Big Brother” and “think of the cost”.

The last thing we want is another layer of bureaucracy in this world, but there comes a time when the greater good is actually served by rules and regulations.

How many times have we bitched about the building code and the occasionally pedantic ways of local council building inspectors? In Canterbury, where the city of Christchurch suffered close to $6 billion in damage from a swarm of earthquakes without loss of life, few people are complaining now.

The case for horse passports is most compelling in Australia, where the industry is working towards an agreement with the federal government on how the industry will be levied should there ever be another exotic disease outbreak, such as the equine flu incursion of 2007.

The deal goes like this: If another disease outbreak occurs, the federal government will fund eradication and control efforts provided a structure is in place so it can recover the cash through a levy on the horse industry.

The industry has until December 1 to reach agreement, and it looks at this stage as if a levy will be proposed on prepared horse feeds and deworming agents.

The Stock Feed Manufacturers’ Council of Australia is not happy. Its executive officer, John Spragg, has come up with a list of reasons why he thinks it’s unfair and illogical, saying it will affect sales and amounts to a tax on horse feed.

Mr Spragg is, of course, right. The manufacturers of dewormers should feel equally aggrieved.

However, unless you’re looking at putting a whole new system in place – such as a horse passport system – it’s hard to imagine what else you can levy. Horse shoes? Breed registrations? Vet visits? Carrots?

All are inequitable and unfair to varying degrees.

Mr Spragg hit the nail on the head when he said the horse industry must take responsibility for collecting the levy, rather than trying to “push the responsibility up the supply chain to manufacturers”.

The only truly equitable way is to require all horses to be registered with a central agency and a passport-like document issued for each horse, much like the requirement in the European Union.

The end result will be a valuable database in the event of future disease incursions. The passport itself could be used as a formal record of ownership, transfer of ownership, vaccination and drug use, particularly the likes of phenylbutazone, which renders a horse ineligible for entry into the human food chain.

What of those who refuse to obtain the passports? There will always be those who don’t toe the line, but if all show entries and other horse-related events require the sighting of the passport for each horse entered, I guess they’ll be resigned to just hacking around their neighbourhood.

The passport would require annual renewal for a modest amount, and this could be lifted if ever the need to levy horse owners to repay the federal government is required.

The horse industry could even build up a little nest egg to make the pain easier when or if future disease incursions occurred, as some livestock industries already do.

The argument is less compelling for New Zealand, but I still think, on balance, the benefits of a passport system would outweight the downside.

Cost? Of course there will be a cost. But isn’t there a cost in just about everything we do in life? Permits, consents, insurances, taxes of all descriptions?

The other worrying factor in the Australian proposal is that things like tax policies really do alter people’s behaviour. They encourage people to palm money off into trusts, gift it to close relatives, income-split. You name it, people will do it if it means saving tax.

Lifting the price of horse feed and deworming agents WILL alter behaviour. People will grow more hay, perhaps feed more chaff and other non-processed feeds to save money. Some will foolishly buy prepared feeds designed for other animals to save some cash. It would be naive to think they won’t.

Owners will deworm their horses less often.

There is no ideal solution, of course. But to me, horse passports seem the fairest option, despite the inevitable cost in getting such a system up and running.

Anyway, I’m ready for the roasting. About four hours at 180 degrees should do it.

9 thoughts on “Has the time come for horse passports?

  • September 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I understand Australia already has an Identification Card ($90) which is substantially less expensive than the FEI Passport ($350) and has been accepted in its place. The FEI Passport has proved very hard to justify here. Personally I believe NZ should stay out of Australia’s policies, we are an Island and should continue to maintain robust MAF import/export controls, leaving the domestic side of our horses alone.

    If a Equine Passport document was to be introduced then incorporate the different Breed/Sport registry informations so they could be created once for every horse rather than you going through the process for each and every different development the horse becomes eligible for. ie: NZAHBS – EndNZ – FEI. Try and get them all to agree and accept the same document.

    • September 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

      An FEI passport costs $300 when purchased from ESNZ and lasts for 4 years before revalidation is required (also $300 for a further 4 years). ESNZ charges the same price as it costs to purchase the passports from the FEI once GST is taken into account. An FEI passport is obviously only a requirement for overseas travel or certain FEI classes staged within NZ.

      The Australian Identification Card is their upmarket version of the NZ identification papers booklet (or logbook for endurance) which ESNZ provides free of charge as part of a horse’s registration. True, the Australian version has been formally approved by the FEI but can ONLY be used to replace an FEI passport when accompanied by an FEI Recognition Card which alone costs exactly the same as the FEI passport (185 Swiss francs) – so the total cost of complying with FEI regulations by national ID card/FEI recognition card exceeds the cost of purchasing an FEI passport.

  • September 24, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    What about the hundreds, possibly thousands of horses owned in ones and twos all over the country?
    Who would be responsible for running them all to ground – and THEN finding out who owns them? What about the Kaimanawas? Would foals be ID’d at birth?
    Which organisation would hold the money? Would it build up into an EQC-type fund? What would it be used for?
    If the horse could have a GPS locator/ID chip inserted, which could be scanned and filed on the ‘passport’ I would be somewhat supportive, but in general I’m in agreement with David Marshall. We don’t need it.
    The FEI passport should remain as it is, separate, for those who want it.

    • September 25, 2010 at 10:13 am

      Wendy, I don’t think Neil is referring to “FEI” passports in the above article, more an ID paper/logbook for documenting info on the horse, vaccinations, etc. I do agree that it would be impossible to police though and it would still be quite an expense for the average horse owner.
      I think that micro chipping competition horses here in NZ will only be a matter of time

  • September 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Given the number of horses that “just hack” up and down my road not so sure that that is the total answer.

    Would probably need to be more like dog rego with all associated running costs to truly succeed. Good reason to drag all equestrian spots/industries into the 21st century and start micro chipping.

    Paper docs are too easy to loose/forge and branding belongs in the dark ages. Technology is a wonderful thing (mostly)- time we got onto it.

    Imagine no more FEI passports, Breed reg papers, endurance check points ……..


  • September 27, 2010 at 5:03 am

    I agree with JennyR, microchipping is the best bet. Whose to say someone uses one passport on 5 different horses. Microchipping is ensures the right horse is identified and accounted for whether it be a tax, license registration, etc.

  • October 3, 2010 at 6:10 am

    I am from the other side of the world where passports and microchips are compulsary. No one reads them. I attend monthly sales and have never seen a scanner for chips, but passports are collected but never checked against the animal, that is for the purchaser to do. The vets I have used have never asked for the passports to record drugs including bute. There are still horses around with no passport even though they should all have one.

    If you ever get round to having compulsary passports make sure that you do not end up with 70+ issueing authorities as many do have multiple passports although not meant to.

  • November 13, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I’m frome europe and all animals do have ID number. Cows, pigs and sheeps have yellow things in their ears whith individual number. If the animal is lost the owner is easily found. Horses,dogs and cats must have microchips. Horses also must have a passport and the latest new silly rule says that the passport must be near the horse if a controllperson from the governemet vill ask for the passport you have two houres to show it for them. You can’t slauther a horse if it doesn’t have a passport. (well there is one slautherhouse that in a very creative way have slauthed the same horse about 5-6 times before the authorities found out what they where doing. They used the same passport to a lot of horses without legal papers)

    Almost every animal in my country do have individual ID number and if an animal (produced for slauther)is found without ID it’s put down and destroyed. Every animal is esaly controlled frome birth to death. Big brother is now also wathing our animals!

  • January 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I’m originally from Namibia and if you have horses travelling between Namibia and South Africa you are required to have a passport for each and every horse including microchips. And yes, the passport has to travel with the horse.
    In my humble opinion this is a good thing as it regulates the movement of horses and prevents the outbreak of diseases, such as Equine Influenza, African Horsesickness and the likes.
    Horses which do not travel internationally should not need passports, but a microchip helps you as owner in cases of theft. Depends on you personally what is more important the chance of getting your horse back after it was stolen or not getting it back……


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