Less than 20% of the country’s horses and ponies have passports, with just three months to go before the end-of-June deadline.
Horse & Hound has obtained figures from the larger passport issuing organisations, including Weatherbys, the British Driving Society, the BHS, Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain, the Arab Horse Society, the National Pony Society, the Hurlingham Polo Association, the Horse Passport Agency and the Pleasure Horse Society, which have issued about 100,000 between them.
However, this is an “optimistic” tally, because some societies could only provide figures for the number of passports issued since as long ago as 1996.
If breed societies have issued about 1,000 passports each — also an optimistic estimate — 150,000 horses, at most, now have DEFRA-approved passports. Estimates of the number of horses in Britain range from 600,000 to a million.
These figures have led to concerns that a last-minute rush in passport applications may bring the issuing systems to a standstill, resulting in owners not obtaining their passports before the 30 June deadline.
Some PIOs are already reporting substantial backlogs, including the Pleasure Horse Society, which had a rush of applications before 31 January (the original deadline), and the Donkey Society, which is dealing with several thousand applications from members of the Association of British Riding Schools.
A Defra spokesperson told HHO: “Defra will make every effort to encourage people who have not yet obtained a passport to do so before the deadline. We hope that reminders which are being issued through the press and via leaflets will enable the message to come across load and clear so that a last minute rush will not arise.
“Many PIOs are currently turning passport applications around in one to two weeks so it will be possible to process a vast number of passport applications before the deadline.”