Progress is being made in the development of a new equine database as the 1 January EU law change approaches.

The current European regulation on equine identification will be replaced with updated rules, which include the requirement for all member states to have a centralised equine database.

Although there is no time gap between the expiration of the current law and the start of the new legislation, it could still be months before a centralised database is in place in Britain.

Under EU law, member states that do not already have a nationalised equine database — such as the UK — will have until 1 July 2016 to implement one.

Members of the Equine Sector Council (ESC) have been helping Defra — which is responsible for making sure the new UK database is produced — to shape it.

Jan Rogers, head of equine development at the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), said Defra has met with organisations interested in implementing the database.

She added that the BEF, through the ESC — which includes horse welfare charities and the British Equine Veterinary Association — has been advising Defra on how to create an effective database.

Defra has taken some of its suggestions on board.

“Defra is currently looking at the form the contract will take,” said Ms Rogers.

“We have advised that they should not restrict bids to people that are just IT providers.” She added that the provider should have background equestrian knowledge.

“We would like to see Defra adopt some further crucial measures, such as a simple means of allowing an owner to notify a passport issuing organisation of transfers of ownership online,” she said.

Ms Rogers said owners want something that will last and that is easy for authorities to use.

“If we have greater enforcement, people will have more confidence in the passport system,” she said.

“Owners have seen the British Horse Database (BHD) and National Equine Database (NED) close (news, 23 August 2012). They don’t want it to happen a third time.”

In 2001, the BHD ceased trading after running into financial difficulties.

It was replaced in 2008 by NED, which folded in 2012 when the government stopped funding it.

Under the new EU rules that come into force next year, foals must be issued with a single passport with a unique identification number before their first birthday.

World Horse Welfare’s Roly Owers stressed the importance of an ID system that is simple for owners to use.

He said a central equine database is “essential”, as it is the foundation for any “robust, enforceable equine identification system”.

“This is vital to protect horse health and welfare,” he said.

“Not only does linking a horse to an owner encourage responsible ownership, but the data can help Defra protect horses in the case of a disease outbreak, deter horse theft and also safeguard the food chain.

“The sector has been frank in its discussions with Defra over the importance of simplicity and practicality. It is imperative that we learn the lessons from the defunct NED.”

A spokesman for Defra said: “Our new equine database will provide statutory information on the identity of horses in the UK, making it easier to trace horses and identify their owners.”

The spokesman added that at present it is not possible to estimate the cost and features of the database.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 17 September 2015