The Irish government has boosted the number of horse passport inspectors and given them new powers to spot-check dealers and auction rings in an effort to increase compliance.

Michael Walsh, spokesman for the Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAF), denied that the move was a reaction to recent disease issues in the country or to a low level take-up of passports since the legislation was introduced in 2005. But he said the government wanted to let people know it would “come down heavy” on those not complying with the law.

“We’re putting the onus on those selling animals to ensure horses going through their yards and sales have the relevant paperwork,” said Mr Walsh. “We want people to be compliant and we’re giving them an extra opportunity to do so.”

As an incentive to owners to register their animals, DAF has negotiated with vets and two of the six passport issuing organisations (PIOs) in Ireland — the Irish Horse Board and the Irish Piebald and Skewbald Association — to offer reduced fees for their services during January and February.

Veterinary Ireland (VI), a voluntary organisation to which approximately half the vets there belong, is encouraging them to reduce their fees by 20% for completing passports.

VI’s Peter Bishton said: “We can’t impose anything on our members, but we are trying to assist with the passport scheme.”

Laura Whelan of the Irish Horse Board said: “DAF asked us late last year to reduce the cost of obtaining a passport for a non-pedigree [non pure-bred] animal to ensure full compliance. No one has an excuse not to register their horse or pony.”

Under EU legislation, since 2005 all horses, ponies, donkeys, zebras and mules must have a passport. Ireland has no figure on the number of passports issued.

“We are collating this information centrally at the moment,” said Mr Walsh.

Stuart Clarke of Cavan horse sales told H&H: “More horses are coming through with
passports but we won’t be able to accept any entries without one now. It’s a little bit of extra work but a good thing in the long term.”

A Defra spokesman confirmed there has been no change to enforcement procedures in the UK.

For more information on the discounts, visit www.irishsporthorse.com or www.theispa.com

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (10 January, ’08)