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European Union rules which harmonise horse identification regulations across Europe and strengthen the horse passports scheme have taken effect in the UK since 1 July 2009.


A consultation in Spring 2013 sought views on delivering a long term solution to the problem of fly-grazing and abandonment of horse and ponies.

Horse identification rules

The regulations require all foals to have a microchip implanted by a veterinary surgeon when their owners apply for a passport.

Compulsory micro-chipping aids accurate identification as it provides a permanent link between the horse and its passport.

Horse passports will clearly identify those horses which are not eligible for the food chain if they have been treated with substances which are potentially harmful to humans. By strengthening the passport system, we:

  • reduce the risk to human health
  • avoid the withdrawal of key veterinary medicines
  • protect the horse meat trade in this country.

Micro-chipping will also help recover and identify stolen and abandoned horses. It will also assist with welfare cases.

The Regulations include:

  • adult horses born before 30 June 2009 and not previously issued with a passport must have had one by 31 December 2009 and signed out of the food chain
  • only veterinary surgeons are allowed to implant a microchip. Prior to inserting a microchip the vet will need to check for an existing microchip or evidence that one has been removed 
  • zebras and other exotic equines will also be subject to this legislation 
  • during a veterinary examination, if the passport is not available or the vet does not know whether or not the horse is eligible for entry into the food chain, the vet should not administer drugs not authorised for food producing animals e.g. phenylbutazone (“bute”) and must use an alternative product.  Additionally, if the passport is not available when the vet is there, the owner is responsible for ensuring that any drugs administered are recorded in the passport
  • owners and keepers with primary responsibility must ensure their horses are correctly identified and be able to produce the passport without delay in the event of an inspection. (Primary responsibility being a person who takes care of the animal on a day to day basis e.g. Full Livery, Racehorse trainers etc)
  • only owners can apply for a passport
  • the passport must accompany the horse at all times unless stabled, at pasture, or moved on foot when the passport can be made available within three hours
  • when a horse passes away, the owner must send the passport back to the Passport Issuing Organisation within 30 days to be recorded. (The passport may be returned to the owner once the process is completed if requested).

A checklist for equine health

The Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare have published a checklist for equine health. The checklist can be viewed on the British Equine Veterinary Association website (external link).

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