Q: “Do I have to carry a passport every time I transport my horse?”

A: It depends where in the UK you live. If it’s Wales, then yes. A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly said: “Passports should be carried at all times when a horse is being transported.”

In the rest of the UK, passports must be carried for horses and ponies when moved “for the purposes of breeding or competition; for sale; out of the UK or on to the premises of a new keeper, and to a slaughterhouse, if intended for human consumption.”

Additionally, in Scotland passports must also be carried when horses are treated by vets — something DEFRA has “no plans” to copy.

Q: “I’m going on a sponsored ride. Is that a ‘competition’?”

A: DEFRA doesn’t define “competition” — and has no plans to: “We do not believe it is confusing and leave it up to the industry to exercise its own judgement and apply its own common sense to define what a competition is.”

However, some local authorities, charged with enforcing the legislation, are unsure. Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) has sent DEFRA queries seeking clarification on “technical issues”, including the definition of competition.

Q: “Can the disciplines clarify the issue for me?”

A: Not really. Here is what some governing bodies told us.

  • “If you’re unsure, speak to DEFRA because they are the ones who interpret the legislation.” — BHS
  • “We tell members to carry passports with them at all times when transporting horses, even though the law isn’t quite that strong. It would help if the rules were black and white.” — British Eventing
  • “We tell members that a competition means anything where a placing is awarded. Carry a passport at all reasonable times and if there are anomalies, contact DEFRA.” — The Pony Club

Q: “I’m interested in buying a horse with no passport. Is that an offence?”

A: No. A loophole means it is illegal only to sell, not buy, a horse without a passport. Welfare groups think this is potty. “By law, you shouldn’t be able to buy or sell a horse without a passport,” said the ILPH’s Tony Tyler. “This needs to be closed off for welfare reasons.”

Q: “With so many PIOs [80 across the UK] and different passport styles, I can’t tell if a passport is legitimate anyway. Why is this?”

A: DEFRA says PIOs follow “a standard format for the minimum information that must be contained in passports” but can present it however they wish.

Q: “My vet never asks to see my horse’s passport before giving him medication. I thought the whole point of passports was to protect consumers if horses end up in the food chain?”

A: Well, yes. DEFRA says: “Vets should always ask to see a passport if they are administering medicines and we have asked veterinary organisations to pass this message to their members.”

But British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) president Chris Rea stressed that vets were “not there to police passport abuse”. “The vet’s responsibility is not to ask to see the passport, but simply to say these are the drugs the horse is getting and need recording,” he said.

  • Read the latest news about passports in Horse & Hound (25 May, ’06)
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