U.K. Passport Regulations Enforced Beginning in March

Less than a month remains before horse passport regulations go into full effect in England. Nearly a half-million passports had been issued by Jan. 31, according to the U.K.'s Department of Environment, Food, and Agriculture (Defra).

The total number of horses and ponies is estimated at between 600,000 and just under a million in Great Britain as a whole, which indicates that compliance by horse and pony owners in England now exceeds 50% and could be as much as 80%.

Under the horse passports scheme, all owners must obtain a passport for each horse, pony, or donkey they own. After Feb. 28, animals without a passport cannot be sold, bought, exported, slaughtered for human consumption, moved to attend a competition or show, or moved to new premises for breeding.

The basic purpose of the European regulations is to prevent horses entering the food chain if they have been treated with certain veterinary medicines.

Representatives of the horse industry and vets have confirmed their support for the Government's approach.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael commented: "A great deal of hard work and an encouraging level of take-up by horse owners means that we are approaching the implementation date in a strong position. Obtaining a passport without further delay is in the best interests of those horse owners who have not yet complied to ensure that their activities are not restricted.

"A key concern for Government and for the horse industry is that approval for around 60% of UK veterinary medicines could be withdrawn if the European Commission is not satisfied with compliance," Michael noted. "Many of these are commonly used and are relied on by horse owners. Their withdrawal could have important welfare implications, so I urge those owners who have not yet applied to do so without delay.

"Enforcement will be proportionate and fair--for example, taking into account whether an owner has applied for but not yet received a passport," he added. "Given that EU scrutiny is likely to focus on risks to public health from veterinary medicine residues in exported horses and horsemeat, enforcement in England will be focused in the first instance on key hazard points, for example slaughter houses and export points.

"The majority of horse owners will not have animals passing through these points, and the most important thing for them will be awareness of the legal requirements so that they can continue all their normal activities with the minimum disruption," he said.

For more information on obtaining a horse passport, including a list of passport issuing organizations, visit www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tracing/horses/horses_index.htm.

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