Animal Health & Welfare

Horse passports

In the guide

This guidance is for Wales

All horse owners must have a passport (referred to as an 'equine identity document' in the legislation) for their horses. When a foal is born, the owner must obtain a passport for it on or before 31 December of the year of its birth or by six months after its birth, whichever is the later.

Foals and previously unidentified horses must now be identified with a microchip and a passport. The microchip may only be implanted by a veterinary surgeon and contains a unique number that corresponds with information held on the passport such as the owner's name and address.

A horse cannot be sold without its passport (veterinary and breed certificates are not passports) although there are a few exceptions. When a horse is sold the seller must give the passport to the buyer at the time of sale and the buyer must register the new ownership within 30 days. If a horse dies or is slaughtered, the keeper must return the passport to the passport-issuing organisation (PIO) within 30 days of death.

Definition of a horse

In EU Regulation (EU) 2015/262 laying down rules pursuant to Directives 90/427/EEC and 2009/156/EC as regards the methods for the identification of equidae (Equine Passport Regulation) 'equidae' or 'equine animal(s)' are defined as 'wild or domesticated soliped mammals of all species within the genus Equus of the family Equidae, and their crosses' - for example, horse, donkey, mule, hinny (jennet), zebra, Przewalski, or their crosses.

Why does my horse need a passport?

Horse passports are required by European law and are are necessary in order to prevent horses that have been treated with certain veterinary medicines (such as wormers and analgesics) from entering the human food chain. Although we do not consume horse meat in any great quantity in the UK, a large number of horses are slaughtered in Britain each year for export for human consumption.

Passports will also help reduce the risk of a ban being introduced on up to 75% of veterinary medicines (including phenylbutazone, also known as 'Bute') currently used to treat horses.

What's in the passport & how do I get one?

A horse passport is a booklet (minimum A5 size), written in both English and French, that uniquely identifies a horse throughout its life and has been issued by a recognised PIO. The passport details the horse's identity, including its unique life number and microchip number (in new passports this information will be laminated to prevent alteration). The later pages show the veterinary treatment history of the horse, its movement and ownership history, and a declaration as to whether or not the horse is intended for human consumption.

Application for a passport must be made by the owner of the horse in writing to a PIO and be in the format specified by that PIO. 

A list of PIOs is available on the GOV.UK website.

Under the Regulations, all equines requiring a passport need to be microchipped. This includes all equines born after 1 October 2009 and all equines born before this date that do not already have a passport.

Can I keep a horse without a passport

The owner or keeper with primary responsibility for any horse must ensure it has a passport issued by a PIO. As well as getting a passport, a horse will need to be microchipped. However, if your horse was born before 1 August 2009 and you have a passport, the horse will not need to be microchipped. All horses over six months old should already have passports. However, where a horse has not previously been issued with a passport it will need to be microchipped before the passport can be applied for. Where the passport has not been applied for within the required time limits, the animal will automatically be signed out of the human food chain.

The owner of a horse must obtain a passport for it on or before 31 December of the year of its birth, or by six months after the animal's birth, whichever is the later. Only the owner of the horse can apply for a passport.

A horse cannot be sold without a passport (veterinary or breed certificates are not passports).

Time limits for obtaining a passport

The owner of a horse must obtain a passport for the animal on or before 31 December of the year of its birth, or by six months after the animal's birth, whichever is the later. Only the owner of the horse can apply for a passport. However, foals will need to be microchipped and issued with a passport earlier if they are to be sold before this time limit has elapsed. Foals without a passport may be moved with their dam / foster mare for production purposes - for example, to and from a stud; they may also be sold without a passport providing they remain with their dam. Owners should note that some auctioneers may require all horses to have a valid passport for sale at auction.

If the passport is not applied for within these time limits, the animal will automatically be signed out of the human food chain.

Microchips

Microchips, which are also known as transponders, are read-only passive radio frequency identification devices that are implanted into a horse's body and have an identification number unique to that particular animal. Only a registered veterinary surgeon of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons can implant the device. A vet must undertake procedures to detect any previous devices already fitted to a horse before beginning to implant a microchip.

Diagram of the horse - the 'silhouette'

The diagram of the horse (silhouette) is not compulsory in passports because horses are microchipped to confirm their identity. However, if your horse is registered with a breed society, their own rules may state that you still require a silhouette or a record of other identification marks. This does not replace the requirement for a microchip.

Smartcard

A smartcard is a plastic device with an embedded computer chip capable of storing data that can be read by compatible computer systems. The devices can be authorised for use in member states of the European Union (EU) to accompany the horse instead of the passport, allowing equines to move within agreed European national boundaries. The smartcard must be issued by the same PIO that issued the paper passport and must be approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on behalf of the Welsh government for use in the UK.

When must the passport accompany a horse?

The passport (or smartcard) must accompany a horse at all times. The person with primary responsibility for the horse must have the passport made available to them if they are not the owner. There are exceptions and they include:

  • emergency situations
  • when a horse is being grazed or stabled but the passport can be produced without delay in the event of an inspection
  • when a horse is being moved on foot, where the passport can be viewed without delay
  • when a horse is being used for competition or an event and is required to leave the venue

What if I buy or sell a horse?

A horse cannot be sold without its passport (veterinary or breed certificates are not passports). When a horse is sold the owner must give the passport to the buyer at the time of the sale (sale includes any transfer of ownership, whether or not any money changes hands). The buyer must notify the issuing PIO (note the PIO may be based in another EU member state) to register the new ownership within 30 days, and include:

  • the buyer's name and address
  • the identification of the horse

There is no exemption for dealers that sell a horse within 30 days of purchasing it.

Note: it is advisable to thoroughly check the passport before purchasing a horse, and in particular check that the date of birth has not been altered.

What do I do if my horse dies?

When a horse dies, the owner / keeper must return the passport to the PIO within 30 days of the animal's death.

When a horse is sold to a slaughterhouse, the occupier of the slaughterhouse will give the passport to the official veterinary surgeon.

What should I do if the passport is lost or damaged?

Where a passport has been lost but the horse's identity can be established and an ownership declaration is available, any person may apply for a replacement passport for that horse to the PIO, if known. Where the original PIO is not known, and there is no microchip that can be traced, the owner should apply to any PIO.

Veterinary treatment

Article 37 of Regulation 2015/262 laying down rules pursuant to Directives 90/427/EEC and 2009/156/EC states that'An equine animal shall be deemed to be intended for slaughter for human consumption except where it is, in accordance with this Regulation, irreversibly declared as not so intended in Part II of Section II of the identification document by: signature of: (a) the owner at his/her own discretion, or (b) the keeper and veterinarian responsible (for administering veterinary medicine); or where applicable the PIO issuing a duplicate or replacement identification document in accordance with the relevant articles.'

The passport needs to be available at the time of treatment with a veterinary medicine. If the horse is not already signed out of the food chain and the veterinary medicine to be administered will require it, the vet is obliged to ensure this is done in part II of section II. The vet may also need to 'invalidate' part III of section II of the passport.

The substances that should not be administered, supplied or prescribed to a food-producing animal are:

  • any product that contains an active substance not contained within table 1 (the 'allowed list') of EU Regulation (EU) No 37/2010 on pharmacologically active substances and their classification regarding maximum residue limits in foodstuffs of animal origin or on the list of essential substances (such as phenylbutazone) will automatically mean that the horse must be permanently excluded from the food chain
  • medicines containing substances included on the 'prohibited substances list'

If any of these substances are administered the horse can never be slaughtered for human consumption and the declaration in section II of the horse passport must be signed by the veterinarian or the owner as 'not intended for human consumption'. Your vet will be able to advise you further regarding the above products and medicines.

You are advised to think carefully before deciding whether you wish to voluntarily sign your horse out of the human food chain.

A 'not intended' declaration at part II of section II of the passport cannot be reversed and a horse may not be consigned for slaughter for human consumption if this section has been signed.

If unplanned or emergency veterinary treatment is required and the passport is not available, the vet will not know whether your horse is signed out of the food chain and will therefore be permitted to administer only substances suitable for food-producing animals. The vet is required to record all vaccinations a horse receives in sections VII and VIII of the horse passport.

The vet is also required to enter the date of the last administration, as prescribed, of that medicinal product in section II of the passport. The animal so treated can be slaughtered for human consumption only after the end of the general withdrawal period of six months following the date of the last administration.

Wild or semi-wild horses in Wales

In Wales there is a derogation whereby wild or semi-wild horses on certain specified commons identified by the Welsh government are not required to have passports until such times as the animals leave those respective areas, or are brought into domestic use. These specified areas include the Cymdeithas Merlod y Carneddau - covering the Carneddau ponies of Northern Snowdonia - and the Hill Pony Improvement Society of Wales. The individual societies and the derogation areas are listed on the Welsh government website.

Only those ponies managed by the above organisations are covered by the derogation, all other ponies kept on common land are subject to the requirements of the Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2009.

Imported horses

A horse may be moved within the EU only if it is accompanied by a passport (with a few exceptions). Horses entering the EU from a third country with an identification document may be considered valid if they comply with set conditions. The owner of any horse entering Wales from outside the EU without a horse passport issued by a PIO must apply for one within 30 days of entering the country. Until the passport is issued, no change of ownership may take place. The horse will need to be identified in accordance with EU rules and will require a microchip when being issued with a passport. If an existing microchip is detected in the horse, it may be possible to use this identification and update the existing passport. Any passport so issued must state that the horse is not intended for human consumption.

Enforcement

Authorised officers of the Welsh Ministers or the local authority have power to enter premises (and vehicles) and require the production of horse passports and other documents at any reasonable time.

Main requirements

The Regulations require that you must:

  • not sell a horse without giving its passport to the buyer at the time of sale (sell includes any transfer of ownership, whether or not any money changes hands)
  • notify a new ownership to the PIO within 30 days and include the buyer's name and address and the identification of the horse
  • obtain a passport within certain time limits
  • not apply for a duplicate or replacement passport except in certain circumstances
  • not fail to update a passport in the case of an imported horse
  • when implanting a microchip into a horse, not fail to follow procedures to detect previous active marking (veterinary surgeons only)
  • not have anyone other than a veterinary surgeon insert a microchip
  • not move a horse without its identification document (exemptions apply)
  • return the passport to the PIO within 30 days of a death of a horse
  • not fail to record veterinary medicinal treatment in a passport and check the human consumption status in the passport prior to treatment (veterinary surgeons only)
  • not destroy or deface a passport
  • not alter an entry in a passport
  • not make a false entry in a passport
  • not make a forged passport or be in possession of one
  • not provide any information in an application for a passport knowing it to be false or misleading
  • not fail to produce to an inspector a passport when requested to do so
  • not obstruct an inspector

Penalties

Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: July 2017

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

© 2017 itsa Ltd.

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