The information below is intended as general information only; not as an authoritative legal opinion on any particular point. Those seeking legal advice on which they intend to or do rely on should consult solicitors or other professionals qualified in equine law.
All information and comment below is believed to be accurate as at 1st January 2021
Since 2005, horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and zebras must have an ‘equine passport’, even if they never leave their field. The current UK regulations are to be found at:
- England: The Equine Identification (England) Regulations 2018
- Scotland: The Equine Animal (Identification) (Scotland) Regulations 2019
- Wales: The Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2019
- Northern Ireland: The Equine Identification Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019
It is the owners who are primarily responsible for the care of the horse and who are under a legal duty to ensure that the horse is correctly identified. Keepers, as distinct from owners, are best advised to check for valid passports before undertaking responsibilities.
Why were passports introduced?
Following an EU Directive the UK had to introduce equine passport legislation. The essential purpose for such legislation is to protect the human food chain and to ensure that no horses slaughtered for human consumption have been treated with particular drugs.
When might I have to produce a passport?
With the exceptions when the horse is stabled, out at pasture or being moved on foot, the passport must accompany the animal at all times. In the case of the ‘exceptions’ the passport must be made available within three hours of it being requested by an enforcement agency. So, animal and passport must be together whenever:
- it’s sold
- it’s moved to new premises
- it’s in competition
- it moves in or out of the UK.
- it’s delivered to a slaughterhouse for slaughter
- it’s used for breeding purposes
- a veterinary surgeon attends the animal to give vaccinations or other medication AND when it’s being microchipped
- the animal is transported – save when the animal is being transported for emergency veterinary treatment.
Passport details may also be required by insurers.
Does my horse have to be microchipped?
Equine identification regulations mean that it’s now compulsory for all ‘equines’ in England, Wales and Scotland to be microchipped. This enables the police and local authorities to track, more easily, owners of lost, stolen or abandoned animals. The deadline dates for having animals microchipped were
- England: by 1st Oct 2020; Wales: by 12th Feb 2021; Scotland: by 28th Mar 2021
My horse had a passport before microchipping was required. What do I do?
In the case of PHS passports, you must inform the Horse Passport Agency Ltd (‘HPA’) (see the Home Page) to enable them to add the microchip number to your animal’s database record. HPA are now the relevant ‘Passport Issuing Organisation for PHS passports.
Your vet who implanted the microchip will add a barcode sticker to the passport, and then sign and stamp it by way of confirmation. Then send the passport to the PIO for database updating. A fee may be payable to the PIO.
Are there any penalties for non-compliance with this legislation?
Currently, failures can lead to fines of up to £5,000.
Are there any derogations?
Passports for semi-wild ponies on Dartmoor, Exmoor, Wicken Fen or in the New Forest are only required if they aren’t free to roam these areas. So, if you keep them enclosed (even if for only some time) on your land) or you have them treated by a vet, then they must be passported.
Can my animal be automatically signed out of the human food chain?
Please note that the Central Equine Database can and will rule horses out of the human food chain automatically, if:
- The passport was issued more than 12 months after the date of birth
- The country of birth is ‘unknown’
- The horse has more than one microchip
- The horse is imported into the UK without a valid passport
Is there a deadline to apply for a new passport?
The law requires that foals must have a passport and be microchipped within six months of birth or before 30th November of the year in which they were born, whichever date is the later.
My horse does not have a passport and is not microchipped. What must I do?
If you haven’t obtained a requisite passport for your horse, you are committing an offence. Act as quickly as possible; apply for a passport and have it microchipped.
If you are unsure if your animal has previously been passported, you should check with HPA to see if any passport has been originally issued by them. A full list of approved PIO’s is available from DEFRA. If the original PIO cannot be located, a replacement passport can be applied for. The passport will be stamped as a replacement and Section IX Part II (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) will be signed by the issuing PIO, declaring that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
If your horse is of a particular breed you can apply for a passport via the relevant breed society as long as the horse meets the specific registration requirements. Further information about registration requirements will be available directly from the breed society.
Can a rescued animal get a new passport?
Before applying for a new passport the new owner must ensure that they conduct all appropriate checks to try and locate the horse’s original Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO). If the original PIO is located, a duplicate passport can be requested.
In the event that the original PIO cannot be located, a replacement passport can be applied for. Once the PIO is satisfied that the horse was genuinely rescued, a replacement passport will be issued. The passport will be stamped as a replacement and Section IX Part II (or Section II Part II for all passports issued from 1 January 2016) will be signed declaring that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
Can freezemarks or veterinary or breed certificates be used as alternatives?
Since 1 July 2009, all new and replacement passport applications include mandatory microchipping of the animal horse. Consequently, Freeze branding isn’t an acceptable alternative to microchipping under equine identification legislation. The animal must have a passport and not a certificate
New owners must register the change with the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) within 30 days of the date when the change of ownership was completed, or face fines.
This also applies to those who only ‘possess’ or keep the animal for a short time period of time. The physical passport must be sent to the PIO for updating, it cannot be done online. A person who transfers a horse to another person must physically hand over the passport at the time of transfer.
I have bought a horse that has been imported into the UK without a valid passport. How do I obtain a passport?
In such a case the Owner must apply for a ‘new re-issue’ passport for horses coming into the UK from any UK based PIO. This has to be done within 30 days of completing the customs procedure otherwise a replacement passport is required.
I had joint ownership on a horse; the other owner has sold their share of the horse to me. What do I need to do?
This is still classed as a change of ownership and the new owner will need to notify the correct PIO within 30 days after purchasing the full ownership of the horse.
My horse has been microchipped due to the legislation enforced from 1st October 2018, do I need to contact my PIO?
Yes, when your horse has a microchip inserted, your vet must add the barcode sticker in the passport, sign and stamp to verify they inserted it. You must then send the passport to your PIO so they can update their records and the Central Equine Database.
My horse has had some veterinary treatment and has been given medication; do I need to do anything?
If your horse has received medications which are not permitted for animals intended for slaughter for human consumption e.g. phenylbutazone, you need to contact your PIO within 14 days of your horse receiving the medication.
Can I make my own manual changes to a passport?
No as it’s an offence to:
- destroy or deface a passport
- alter any details in the passport
- be in possession of a passport knowing it is forged.
All updates must be made by the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO).
Please Note: Passports are often issued before the animal reaches full maturity. This can result in the height and colour details becoming out of date. You should contact your PIO to discuss what needs to be done.
The owner must contact the relevant PIO to notify the change within 30 days.
Badly damaged passport?
Request a replacement or duplicate passport from your PIO.
What do I do with the passport in the event of my horse’s death?
The passport must be returned to the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) within 30 days of the death of the horse. Failure to return the passport is an offence.
If there is any question of an insurance company mortality claim, contact the insurers before returning the passport. It is very highly likely the insurance company will want to see the passport first. Insurers are all aware of the 30 day time deadline and should send the passport to the original PIO on your behalf before the deadline expires. If you want to keep the passport as a memento or keepsake, ensure the insurer notifies the PIO accordingly.
Note: If you would like to retain the passport as a personal memento, contact HPA first to see if this is possible. If it’s not, then you can always tale a full photocopy
BUYING AND LOANING
What steps should I take?
As it is a legal requirement that a horse is sold with its passport, it is strongly suggested that you don’t buy if no passport is available. The seller should obtain a passport prior to any sale. If you buy without a passport, it will be an offence if the animal is moved without a passport.
Check that the passport matches the description. If the passport was issued from 1 July 2009 the passport may not have a completed silhouette but will have a microchip number. You are best advised to have a pre-purchase veterinary examination completed before buying. Even if the horse is not being sold but the ownership is being formally transferred, the new owner must still receive the passport.
Loaning; what do I do about the passport?
The law requires that the original passport remains with the horse. Therefore, when a horse is put out on loan the keeper must have the passport; photocopies are not acceptable.
If this is not acceptable to the owner, then there are some steps which owners can take:
- Contact the relevant PIO and advise that your horse is being loaned out. The PIO should note their records and can check with you directly if they receive a request to change the horse’s ownership details
- If your horse hasn’t been microchipped, consider doing so. The identity can then be definitively proven. It is important to up-date the PIO so the microchip number is added to your horse’s record
- The owner can take a photocopy of the horse’s passport for their records and can prove that the passport pre-dates any illegal replacement passports that an unscrupulous loaner may have applied for. This will be more effective if the horse has been microchipped
Can the keeper apply for a new passport?
No. The regulations state that only an owner of the horse can apply for a passport. The primary keeper of the horse should ensure the horse has a passport before agreeing to take the horse on loan. It is an offence to keep a horse without a passport.
SECTION IX (OR SECTION II FOR PASSPORTS ISSUED FROM 1 JANUARY 2016)
My horse’s passport has been returned with Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) completed. Why has this been done?
The current legislation states that Section IX Part II (or Section II Part II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) of the passport must be signed by the Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) to declare that the horse is not for human consumption when:
- the passport was applied for after the horse turned six months old, or 30 November in its year of birth (whichever is later). Therefore, any older horse will be automatically signed out of the food chain.
- any replacement or duplicate passport is issued
- an original passport has been located after a duplicate had been issued
- a Section IX page has been added to an existing passport.
Can a new owner revoke the Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) declaration?
No. Once Section IX Part II has been signed declaring that the horse is not intended for human consumption, it cannot be revoked.
My passport is missing Section IX; what do I need to do?
If your horse’s passport is missing the Section IX page, it will have been issued before 10 June 2004. Without Section IX the passport is not fully valid. The owner should contact the relevant PIO to request Section IX is added to the passport. When a PIO adds a Section IX page to an existing passport, they legally have to sign Section IX Part II to declare that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
Where can I find further information on the passport regulations?