As the 28 February 2005 deadline for obtaining your equine passports creeps ever closer, the Pleasure Horse Society is pledging that all applications it receives before 1 February will be processed without penalty and that passports will be returned to owners by 27 February.

The society is also offering a 72-hour fast track service, costing £20 in addition to the basic £17.50 per passport charge, for any individuals who are looking for the peace of mind of knowing they can obtain a passport in just three days. Owners who do not have passports by 28 February may face a fine of up to £5,000 or a prison sentence.

When the horse passport legislation was initially unveiled owners were told to apply for equine passports by 31 December 2003. The deadline was then extended by six months to 30 June 04 after confusion surrounding the new regulations, with many horse welfare charities campaigning against the controversial the “not for human consumption” clause.

This new deadline was amended again so owners had to apply for passports by 30 June 2004, but did not have to obtain one until 28 February next year. However the 30 June deadline came and went with many owners failing to apply for their passports so most passport-issuing organisations have continue to accept late applications without penalty.

From 28 February 2005, a passport must be presented whenever an equine:

  • moves premises
  • enters competition
  • is used for breeding
  • leaves the United Kingdom
  • is sold or is presented for slaughter for human consumption

Trading standards officers have begun asking to see horses’ passports when undertaking routine horse vehicle inspections to try and get people used to carrying them as a matter of course.

Alison Cowley, animal health officer for Staffordshire Trading Standards, says: “We have been chatting to people rather than questioning them. We ask people if they have got passports and, if not, make sure they have applied – but we have no way of checking whether they have done.”

A Horse & Hound Online poll undertaken earlier this year found that nearly 60% of people had either applied for or received their horse’s passports, while a defiant 10% said they did not intend to get one for their horse. The remaining 31% said they intended to apply but had not got round to it at that time.