Unqualified farriers could soon be working in the UK due to a loophole in new legislation that allows professionals qualified in other European Union countries to practise here, claim farriers’ groups.

Under the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) can scrutinise the qualifications of workers coming to this country on a permanent basis, and force them to undergo training.

But the Farriers’ Qualifications (European Recognition) Regulations 2008, brought in on 31 March, amends the act to allow EU farriers to work in the UK on a temporary basis if they can prove they have qualifications and experience.

And it does not allow the FRC to check the standard of those qualifications until the farriers are already working.

Both the FRC and the UK Horse Shoers Union fear this amendment to the act could lead to welfare problems.

The Farriers (Registration) Act ensures the standard of UK farriery is recognised as being among the best, said Stuart Craig of the UKHSU.

But he added: “All the good work that has been done in farriery training and within the farriery community is being eroded by this [directive] and it is opening the system to abuse — people could injure and lame horses with no redress.”

The FRC raised concerns with the government before the amendment was enacted and is concerned the law does not say what “temporary” means.

“The council opposed the lack of controls concerning the rights of temporary service providers, for example the inability to set time limits, but was told this was contrary to the directive,” said Felicity Heather, FRC registrar.

“We also requested the right to check qualifications in the interests of animal welfare, but were told the right only applied to those professions with human health implications.

“The council considers that this undermines the case for full professional training but has been overruled.”

Any evidence that animals are suffering will be brought up with Defra, she added.

A Defra spokesman said: “Checks can be made with the competent authority in the home state at any time after the person has provided their written declaration, accompanied by proof of authorisation to practise farriery legally.

“What the directive does not allow is for temporary services to be delayed while checks are carried out or barring access until such checks have been completed.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (17 April, ’08)