ESSEX police have slammed horse passports as a failing system and have called on the government to take action.
Secretary of Essex Horsewatch, Peter Caulfield, who is a serving police officer, said: “Horses are being sold on with fake passports and these passports are being used by less-than-honest traders.
“We want anyone who can issue passports to be properly regulated. Without government help it’s impossible to stop this practice. Police doing roadside checks need to be able to confirm ownership.”
Mr Caulfield said the police want to hit head-on the scam of selling-on horses who are supposed to be on loan.
In a petition on the prime minister’s website, the group is calling for owners to support further Defra regulation.
The suggested rules include that no horse can be sold or passed on within three months of a passport being issued or transferred; that all those who are registered to issue passports are Criminal Records Bureau-checked as a condition of registration; that the National Equine Database’s register of horse passports is linked into national police control networks and that horses cannot be sold at official horse sales — in the ring or outside in the car park — without the presence of an independent vet and a member of Defra policing the passport system.
A spokesman for Defra said: “Microchipping horses will help to prevent theft. If there is evidence of issuing officers participating in any illegal activity, then we would like to see it so we can take the appropriate action.”
Director of the Derby-based Horse Passport Agency, Andrew Davis, also believes microchipping will have an effect on security.
“The new EU legislation in July 2009, where every horse [applying for a first passport] has to be microchipped, will clamp down on the issue of fake passports,” he said. “The passport is like the horse’s log-book and the microchip the chassis number.
“But Defra definitely needs to exercise more enforcement over rogue dealers,” he said. “It would be nice if we could move these cases from being a civil to a criminal matter.”
Sign the petition.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (21 August, ’08)