New ID Legislation Welcomed by Equine Sector

The British Horse Council welcomes Defra’s new equine identification regulations which come into force in England on 1st October 2018 and will, if horse owners comply, offer a host of benefits including greater protection against theft, the spread of disease, and neglect.

The regulations will make it a legal requirement for every horse, pony and donkey in England to be microchipped and possess a valid UK passport, with all details stored on a Central Equine Database. Owners of horses born before 30th June 2009 will have two years in which to ensure they are microchipped, with horses born after this date already required to be chipped.

To ensure reliable data, any changes in ownership or status of a horse (ie. if they are euthanased, lost, stolen or signed out of the food chain) will need to be notified to their Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) which will then have 24 hours to update the Central Equine Database (CED).

In addition to deterring theft and fraudulent sales, the new regulations will be vital in managing disease outbreaks, enabling mapping of horse populations and rapid communication with owners.

Chair of the British Horse Council, Jeanette Allen, welcomes the new ID regulations. She said: “Previous legislation has been half-baked but the new regulations are not only positive for horse owners, but are a significant boost for equine health and welfare. Having all up-to-date data recorded on the Central Equine Database will help us better protect our equine population in the event of a disease outbreak, as well as providing essential tools to help owners find their horses in the event of theft or straying.  It should also give owners confidence that horses which have previously been signed out of the human food chain never end up in the abattoir.

“However whilst this legislation has huge potential to benefit all of England’s horses, its success is critically dependent on horse owners (along with law enforcers) recognising that, without them playing their part, our horses will continue to face totally unnecessary risks.”

The new regulations will also help ensure that a wide range of equine medicines remain available to vets. David Mountford, Chief Executive of BEVA, explains:

“Certain veterinary medicines can only be administered to a horse if it can be identified, if treatment is recorded in the passport and/or if we can see that it is signed out of the human food chain. If the passport is not readily available at the point of care then the treatment options are limited, errors in medicines records are possible and the authorities will seek to restrict medicines availability. Under the new ID regulations vets will be able to positively identify the horse, check its status online and therefore use the most appropriate medicine with confidence. Vets want to do what is best for the horse and the new regulations will help ensure this is possible.”

Thoroughbred Breeders Association Chief Executive Claire Sheppard said:

“A robust system of identification for all the UK’s horses and ponies will underpin traceability, equine welfare and protection from disease. Whether this is for the largest thoroughbred stud or the owner of a single horse or pony, we will all benefit.”

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, said:

“The ability to accurately link every horse to an owner is the cornerstone of responsible ownership. It 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.

“Welfare organisations and Local Authorities will now be more able to tackle the problem of unidentified horses and ponies, and Local Authorities should be better placed to enforce the legislation as they can now issue civil sanctions, such as fixed penalty notices, for non-compliance.  It will also help ensure that any horses that have been illegally taken into another’s possession can be identified and returned to their rightful owner.

“For the first time, the CED will give a clear and accurate picture of England’s equine population which will help the industry to ensure equines are properly recognised and their welfare protected by Government through policy and legislation.”