Local authorities are stepping up spot horse passport checks on lorries and trailers. But confusion still reigns about exactly when passports should be carried, due to grey areas within DEFRA’s legislation.

Nigel Durnford, animal health and welfare inspector for Gloucestershire Trading Standards, pulled in about a dozen horseboxes three weeks ago, carrying anything from racehorses to polo and gymkhana ponies.

“The more you start trying to use the legislation, the more anomalies you find,” he said. “I’m not sure the technicalities are buttoned up. Whether horses need a passport with them or not depends what they are on their way to do.”

Passport legislation, which came into force on 28 February, states that horses must be accompanied by passports when being moved for competition or breeding purposes, to the premises of a new keeper, or when being exported.

During one inspection, Durnford and his team came across a horse that was going away to be schooled. He thought it needed its passport because it was going to the premises of a new keeper.

But he added: “That’s an example of a difficult one: what is a new keeper and how long does the horse have to be away for? Of the vehicles we stopped, about half had the documents they needed. We think that if they’re going to a Pony Club gymkhana, they need them, but if it’s a sponsored ride, they don’t.”

Horse owners report confusion at inspections. In one case last month, an inspector stopped a polo lorry, but was then unsure whether passports needed to be carried. Polo pony producer Emma Oliver was driving the few miles from her home to Cirencester Park to exercise four polo ponies when she was pulled over by a police car carrying two policemen and two trading standards inspectors.

“They pulled us over on the dual carriageway. I pointed out there was no hard shoulder and asked them to follow me to somewhere safer, such as a lay-by. They did so and wanted to see my paperwork, which I didn’t have because I was going for a hack.

“Then they got very muddled — although they couldn’t have been more charming — and said they thought I needed the documents anyway. Between them, they didn’t know the rules. If trading standards officers are taking up their own and police time, it would be useful if they knew what we had to do.”

Horse & Hound has not heard of any prosecutions under passport legislation; only anecdotal evidence of inspectors issuing warnings.
One driver of a polo lorry that was stopped between two Sussex clubs was warned that the horses’ owner could face a £5,000 fine if they were found again without documents.

Durnford added: “Our enforcement is fairly low-key and we’re trying to advise people. But no doubt we will [have to prosecute] in due course, for instance, when unscrupulous people start altering the slaughter declaration illegally.”

When does a horse need its passport?

Legislation states that horses must be accompanied by passports when moved:

  • for competition or breeding
  • from the UK
  • to the premises of a new keeper

DEFRA has confirmed that owners/keepers do not need to carry passports when a horse is being transported for:

  • a hack
  • organised non-competitive activities away from home such as cross-country schooling and sponsored rides
  • training away from home, such as riding lessons
  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (9 June, ’05)


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