A leading British charity is welcoming new regulations aimed at improving horse identification in England.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the new regulations, which will come into force on October 1, will make it a legal requirement for all horses in England to be identified, and will include a requirement for the animal to be microchipped.
The regulations will introduce civil sanctions for those who do not comply, such as fixed penalty notices.
Horse owners will have two years to get their horses microchipped if it is not already chipped.
Previously, microchipping was a legal requirement for any horse born after June 30, 2009, but the new regulations will bring in retrospective microchipping and, for the first time, details of both horse and owner will be kept on a new Central Equine Database.
The new regulations are being welcomed by World Horse Welfare, which has long been critical of the poor standard of horse traceability across Britain.
Its chief executive, Roly Owers, described the move as a hugely significant step forward for horse welfare and the equine sector.
“An effective identification system is not only vital in encouraging responsible ownership, but will help give a much clearer picture of England’s equine population which is vital in the event of a disease outbreak.
“Horse owners will benefit from increased traceability, making it easier for them to be reunited with lost or stolen horses. The Public Chip Checker on the Central Equine Database will also offer more services for horse owners to protect their horses.
“The ability to accurately link every horse to an owner increases traceability and ensures owners can be held accountable in the case of welfare problems or abandonment, rather than simply discarding their unwanted animals with no consequences.
“It is particularly positive that, with the introduction of civil sanctions for non-compliance, local authorities will now be able to recover the costs associated with enforcement – removing this potential barrier to doing so.
“As with any legislation, it will only work if it is robustly enforced and so we are pleased that Defra has taken heed of recommendations from the British Horse Council – of which World Horse Welfare is a member – to ensure the new equine ID regulations are as effective as possible.”
Owers continued: “As well as the responsibility on local authorities to enforce the regulations, the horse community must also take responsibility for making the Central Equine Database fulfil its purpose by ensuring their and their horses’ details are kept fully up to date with their PIO – including changes in ownership, if a horse has been stolen or is deceased.
“Not only will this help owners safeguard their horse but it is also information which will be imperative in the case of managing and controlling any disease outbreaks which may occur.”
All horse passport-issuing organisations (PIOs) are in the process of uploading the information they hold to the Central Equine Database.
In due course, owners should log on to the Chip Checker and input their horse’s microchip number to check the details are all up to date. If incorrect, they should notify their PIO.
If the horse is dead, this information must be entered under their microchip on the Chip Checker to safeguard against the microchip being re-used fraudulently for a different horse, World Horse Welfare says.
If a horse changes owner, has been lost, stolen, euthanised or signed out of the food chain, owners must let their PIO know as soon as possible and they will have 24 hours in which to update the Central Equine Database. Once the regulations come into force (1st October 2018) owners have 30 days to let their PIO know of any changes.
If a horse was born before June 30, 2009, and does not have a microchip, owners have two years to ensure they are microchipped. To save on the cost of a separate vet callout, the charity suggests owners have this done as part of the horse’s routine vaccination programme.
The Chip Checker will soon be enhanced by a ‘Digital Stable’ that will enable a full record of each horse to be kept online. As well as several other features, this will help safeguard against horses being sold without the owner’s consent as owners will be able to mark the horse as ‘for sale’, ‘not for sale’ or ‘stolen’. This feature is not yet available, but owners can register their interest here.
Those who fail to comply with the equine ID regulations may be served a non-compliance notice by their local authority which will give them a set period to comply or, depending on the severity of the offence, they may receive a fixed monetary penalty. Offences include:
- Failing to produce a passport when instructed by a vet or inspector;
- Possessing a passport but no horse;
- Possessing a horse when the passport is not in your name without an agreement (preferably a written contract) between the owner and the ‘keeper’ (person responsible);
- Selling a horse and not handing over the passport;
- Transporting a horse without a passport;
- Owning a horse without a microchip.
World Horse Welfare says there are currently three PIOs that do not have their records on the database, so those who cannot find their horse as yet should not be immediately concerned.
“We would recommend contacting your PIO to clarify the situation,” it says.