European Union to Require Horse Passports, Microchips

According to a June 9 statement on the European Union (EU) Web site, all equidae will now have to acquire individual passports within six months after birth. At the time the passport is issued, the animal will be tagged with a matching electronic chip.

"The current system of identifying horses is outdated," said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. "It needs to be adapted to the new identification technologies. The regulation adopted by the commission addresses this issue. It creates a better identification system that in the end will help us fight possible animal diseases."

The new system will build on a single identification document--one passport, issued for lifetime when the animal is born or imported. The document will be linked to the animal by an electronic microchip (also known as radio frequency identification, or RFID) and the fact it was issued will be recorded in a database under a unique life number for the animal that will remain the constant reference, even if its name is changed.

The new regulation, which is expected to enter into force July 1, 2009, introduces or details the following main issues:

  • A lifetime passport is issued for all equidae when they are born and independently of their movement status;
  • When the passport is issued an electronic transponder (microchip) is injected to foals in order to ensure that only a single identification document is issued;
  • The issuing of the passport is recorded in a database under a unique life number that remains the lifelong reference even if the name of the animal is changed;
  • It is clarified that equidae for slaughter must be accompanied to the slaughterhouse by their passport as an essential part of the food-chain information required by the food law (including the information on possible specific treatment with veterinary medicines);
  • Provisions are made for the recovery of the microchip, in case of lost passports, and on the death of the animal in relation to the information on the database;
  • The regulation contains derogations for animals kept under feral conditions;
  • This regulation does not affect the imports of equidae from third countries, but includes provisions on the identification of equidae definitively imported into the EU;
  • The Regulation also clarifies how to use the passport as a tool to immobilize equidae in case of animal movement restrictions.

More information can be found on the European Union Food Safety Web site.

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