Horsewatch groups and National Equine Database (NED) officials are disappointed that Defra refuses to give police investigating equestrian crime full access to the database because of security issues.

When NED was launched last year (news, 27 November 2008) one of its selling points was how it would help police retrieve stolen horses.

It was hoped that when officers wanted to check a microchipped or freezemarked animal they would be able to search in NED to find the owner’s name and address.

This information is only available to NED “super-users”, like Defra and NED officials.

But at the UK Horsewatch Alliance conference on 26 September NED chief executive Nick Wallbridge told police they would not get access in the near future.

“I would really like to see the police having access to information like addresses in NED and do not understand why Defra is unhappy about allowing them this privilege,” said Mr Wallbridge, “but the government is very cautious about releasing data and has said no.”

He said that currently officers seeking information must fill out an online form on NED which is sent to Defra.

“No request has ever been denied but it’s an unnecessary step,” he added.

UK Horsewatch Alliance chairman Garry Porter said: “I don’t understand why it can’t be like vehicle registration information on the police national computer system.”

A Defra spokesman said: “The police do not have direct enforcement powers under domestic horse passport laws.

Any request for information from the police must be considered under the Data Protection Act 1998.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (15 October, ’09)