Survey: Passport Regulations Confuse Vets, Horse Owners

It seems that British passport regulations can be confusing for veterinarians as well as horse owners, making them difficult to observe: An anonymous survey of British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) members conducted this spring has revealed that 84% of participants find the regulations "obtuse" or "problematic to understand," which makes adhering to them difficult. Subsequently BEVA, in conjunction with the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare, is pushing for legislative changes to make the system more workable.

The survey was carried out to assess the perceived purpose and value of the current equine identification system after questions were raised about its efficacy following the horsemeat scandal earlier this year. The results have already been used to make British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs officials and ministers more aware of the practical challenges faced by veterinarians on the ground.

Of the 600 respondents, only 16% considered that they fully understood their responsibilities in respect of the passport regulations. Most thought that the main role of the passport system was food safety, in terms of the prevention of unsuitable carcasses entering the human food chain. However, 90% believed that it did not fulfil this purpose because of noncompliance, exacerbated by the lack of a central database, multiple numbers of passport issuers and the lack of enforcement.

The main reasons cited for veterinarians struggling to ensure compliance when treating horses were the passport not being with the horse and the passport having incorrect owner details. When asking clients for a patient’s passport, a third of the respondents weren’t presented with a valid document in more than 50% of instances.

“Fundamentally it appears that understanding and compliance are poor across the entire equine sector,” explains outgoing BEVA President Keith Chandler, BVMS, CertEP, MRCVS. “Our members work with horses every day and whilst they make a concerted effort to comply with the legislation, the perceived risk of non-compliance by all stakeholders in the sector, simply does not outweigh the challenge of compliance.”

In response to this survey and to others carried out across the equine industry that have elicited similar results, BEVA, in conjunction with the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare, is pushing at national and European levels for legislative change. Targets include universal microchipping; a simple central database with cross-border communication; and consigner responsibility for carcass residues, which would shift the burden of responsibility onto the trader who submits horses for slaughter to ensure the carcass is free of residues, as is the case in other food-animal species.

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