A raft of proposed changes to the rules governing horse passports have been released this week for public comment, together with legislation to introduce compulsory microchipping for all foals and adult horses on new passport applications from next July.

In March, European member states passed legislation to make microchipping of all foals compulsory from 1 July, 2009.

In response, and following a series of meetings with representatives of the British horse industry, Defra has produced draft legislation to roll out the EU directive. As well as the introduction of microchips to accompany all new horse passports issued in England after 1 July 2009, Defra has tightened and amended existing passport rules, too.

The Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government have told H&H their legislation will be out for consultation “very shortly”.

“The new regulation aims to improve the current method of identification by linking each ID issued [to a horse] to a microchip implanted into the animal,” said a Defra spokesman.

“Linking the microchip and ID, which are both recorded as a unique life number on the National Equine Database (NED) will reduce risks to human health by stopping certain animals entering the food chain, help disease surveillance and aid recovery of lost or stolen horses.”

Aside from compulsory microchipping of foals, main changes to the legislation include a ruling that a passport must be carried with the horse every time it leaves a premises on which it is kept unless on foot [ie a hack].

Defra is also proposing that from 1 July before any new or duplicate passport is issued the Passport Issuing Authority (PIO) checks for an existing microchip and that one is issued if it does not already exist.

Derogations for semi-feral ponies living on Dartmoor or in the New Forest have also been proposed.

The horse industry — everyone from individual owners to breed societies and vets to racehorse trainers — has until 2 February to comment on any part of the proposals, which were released on Monday, 10 November.

But although the legislation is likely to cost owners at least an additional £25-25 when registering a horse, they have so far been generally welcomed.

View the horse passport proposed changes

Find out what horse industry commentators think in today’s Horse & Hound