Ireland readies to undertake first equine census

The first annual census of equines in Ireland is scheduled to take place at the end of the year.
A horse grazing in Liscannor in Ireland. Photo by Giuseppe Milo (

The first annual census of all equines in Ireland will be undertaken at the end of November, with all those who keep horses, ponies, donkeys, mules or zebras required to comply.

It will be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), led by minister Charlie McConalogue, who said the census was one of his department’s priorities for 2021.

“It is also in keeping with my commitment to review and enhance the equine identification and traceability system with a view to better supporting equine welfare, as set out in Ireland’s Welfare Strategy 2021-2025, published by my Department following consultation with stakeholders.”

The census will also facilitate compliance with new EU Animal Health Law (Regulation (EU) 2016/429), which came into force in April 2021 and which requires that the habitual residence of every equine kept in the State is recorded on the central equine database. This is generally the premises at which an equine resides for a period of more than 30 days.

The census is designed to create an initial link between each equine kept in the State on census day and the premises where it is kept at that time. A profile of all equines present on a holding on that date will be created on the Department’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system, which houses the central equine database. It is expected that the formal linking of equines to their keepers will increase compliance with equine legislation which places responsibility on the recorded keeper for ensuring the health and welfare of all animals in his/her care.

McConalogue said all premises where equines are kept must be registered with DAFM for that purpose and all equine keepers are responsible for ensuring that any equines in their care are properly identified with a valid passport.

The census will provide important information in the event of an equine disease outbreak, in addressing public health concerns and in dealing with lost, straying or stolen horses.

The Department has written to all registered keepers making them aware of the upcoming census and will contact equine keepers again later in the year, confirming the date of the 2021 census. At that time, a ‘Step-by-Step’ guide to completing and submitting the census data online will be provided.

It is an offence to keep equines on premises that are not registered with DAFM, and keepers of equines are also legally required to ensure that all equines in their care are properly identified with a passport.

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