Defra has decided that individual horse owners will not be allowed to complete the silhouette section of their horse’s passport after 31 January, sparking concern that the cost of acquiring a passport is set to rise sharply.

Instead the silhouette must be completed by either a veterinary surgeon or a person authorised by the passport-issuing organisation (PIO), unless the horse has been micro chipped, in which case the owner may complete the silhouette.

The decision to restrict the “competent authority” allowed to complete the silhouette was unveiled in a letter sent to all PIOs last month.

The letter states: “It is not just a question of whether owners are capable of completing the silhouette accurately but of the independent verification of the description.”

Defra is concerned that the European Commission might take action against the UK if owners are continued to be allowed to complete the silhouette. This could lead to the withdrawal of certain drugs, such as bute, which are commonly used to treat horses in the UK, but are not authorised for use in animals destined for human consumption.

The BHS has slammed the decision, saying: “The society is extremely concerned about the economic impact this decision will have on horse owners.

“When the horse passport scheme was introduced it was understood that passports were to be produced and issued by PIOs at the most economic price possible. Restricting the ‘competent authority’ to a veterinary surgeon will considerably increase the cost to horse owners.”

PIOs, which currently accept silhouettes completed by owners, are bracing themselves for another massive influx in passport applications in the run up to the 1 February 2004 deadline.

  • Read Horse & Hound’s indepth story on Defra’s new ruling in this Thursday’s issue (8 January), plus H&H quizzes Alun Michael on passport issues.