From 1 July 2004 horse owners are required to have a passport for their horses. (The date for registration has been extended by six months.)
The government has introduce the legislation under EEC directives 93/623 and 2000/68. But whereas all horses in the England and Wales have to be registered, the EEC directive 93/623 does not make passports compulsory for horses born before 1 January 1998. And directive 2000/68 requires a horses to have a passport only if it is intended for the human food chain.
The reason for extending the scheme in England and Wales to include all horses is that it will ‘help provide a database giving information on the location of horses that could be vital if there was an equine disease outbreak’, according to Alun Michael, Minister for the Horse [yes, really], speaking in the House of Commons on 10 February 2003.
Horse owners should be aware that, subsequent to the Foot and Mouth epidemic, the government has taken powers under the Animal Health Act 2002 that can be used to cull horses in the event of an outbreak of African horse sickness or Vesicular stomatitis, neither of which has ever occurred in this country.
Put simply, if you obtain a passport you may run the risk – albeit faint – of having your horse shot by a ministry vet. But if you fail to obtain a passport for your horse, you could risk a £5000 fine and, for a second offence, one month’s imprisonment. In addition, vets will not be able to prescribe certain drugs for horses without passports.
If you object to this ‘big brother’ approach to you and your horse, we advise you to contact your MP and complain.
There is wide variation in the price of a horse passport: we have found they vary from £9.95 to £27.00.