The Lusitano Breed Society(GB) stopped trading early last month leaving Lusitano owners to wonder where they stand with their horse’s passports.

The Lusitano Breed Society(GB) was founded in 1998 as an offshoot of the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain with the specific intent to issue passports to Lusitano owners. This was because the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain was an unincorporated society and, as such, it did not meet the criteria laid by the then MAFF to become a passport-issuing organisation. The Lusitano Breed Society(GB) was set up as a separated limited company, which applied and received recognition from MAFF to issue passports.

However, a dispute between the two organisations led to the unincorporated Lusitano society taking the limited company to court over ownership of the stud book. A lengthy court case ensued, which the limited company lost at the end of 2004.

“The court decided that, because the society had not been made into a limited company, it still retained ownership of the stud book and therefore the limited company had to hand it back,” says Tony Fox of the Lusitano Breed Society(GB). “The limited company was faced with enormous legal bills which it could not pay, so it went into voluntary liquidation at the beginning of the year.”

But the limited company had been issuing passports until November and their demise leaves Lusitano owners in an awkward position. DEFRA reassures that “the passports issued by the defunct [Lusitano Breed Society(GB)] will remain valid. This follows previous legal advice in relation to the validity of passports issued by British Horse Database, another PIO which ceased to trade sometime
ago,” says a spokeswoman.

Owners who haven’t yet applied for a passport, however, may end up with one that doesn’t identify their horse as a Lusitano. This is because the unincorporated Lusitano society, which owns the stud book, hasn’t yet received recognition as a passport issuing organisation.

“The Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain is applying for recognition with the Welsh Authorities,” explains the DEFRA spokeswoman. “If this application is successful, Lusitano owners may apply to the new society for passports. Otherwise, [they] may obtain a passport from many of the other PIOs.”

If the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain is granted recognition as a PIO, it will also maintain passports issued by the Lusitano Breed Society(GB) before it ceased trading.

“I can’t say how the passports issued by the other society are going to be endorsed. We are still waiting to hear from the Welsh Assembly [about recognition] and will work [it] out with them,” says the secretary of the studbook for the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain, Eleanor Russell. “Our recognition is under discussion at the moment. Going forward, we will be issuing passports for Lusitanos and part-breds.”

However, the case has exposed a potential pitfall of the British passport system: what happens to passport records if a PIO goes out of business? In other EU countries this is not a problem, as passports are usually issued directly by the equivalent of DEFRA. But in the UK, where PIOs number in the 70s, this may be a likely occurrence.

“We are currently examining this issue, and, as discussed at a meeting with PIOs last Friday, we intend to issue guidance to the industry in due course,” says the DEFRA spokeswoman. “We will need to seek legal advice and further consult with the industry in order to identify the best practice to deal with this eventuality.”

DEFRA is not aware of a backlog of applications to the Lusitano Breed Society(GB), but advises that any Lusitano owner who applied for a passport from the now-defunct organisation and did not receive it should contact the Society directly (tel: 01531 660 289).

Eleanor Russell of the Lusitano Breed Society of Great Britain is also available to answer passport queries (tel: 01443 230852).