U.K. Horses to Have Passport for Life

The United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs minister Alun Michael announced on Feb. 14 that all horses and ponies in England and Wales must be given a unique registration number and a "passport" for life.

By Dec. 31, 2003, all horses, ponies, and donkeys will need to have a passport, bringing the country into line with European legislation. The decision requires that voluntarily registered horses born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, must be accompanied by a "passport" when transported. Also, all horses must have passports recording administered medications if the horse is intended for human consumption. (Those specially reared for slaughter and consumption are kept medication-free.) Registered horses that already have current passports will need an additional section recording veterinary medicines that have been administered.

The government is also having discussions with associations and members of the equine industry on setting up a central horse database to help with disease control.

The U.K. government has looked for the most cost-effective way of meeting the legal requirements while keeping bureaucracy to a minimum. This will be achieved by working with horse industry organizations, many of which already issue passports.

"The government also intends to introduce a unique identification number for all horses and ponies," Michael said. Owners and keepers of horses and ponies which are not currently registered will be required to register these animals with one of the appropriate approved equine organizations. The owners of these animals and the owners of registered horses and ponies which currently do not have passports will be required to obtain passports from the approved (registry) organizations.

Industry organizations currently are discussing detailed implementation arrangements.

"The government also considers that it is vital to establish a central database of basic information on horses which could be used for disease control and other purposes, and will establish the necessary arrangements following discussion with the horse industry in order to achieve this end with a minimum of bureaucracy and at minimum cost," added Michael.

Proponents of the passports believe that the requirement might encourage horse owners to keep their horses in better condition, and help decrease over-breeding in certain areas of the country.

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