Leading industry figures have raised concerns that horse identification laws, which were due to be updated on 1 January 2016, have not yet been formally introduced by the government.
Defra has failed to implement domestic legislation that allows local authorities to enforce passport and identification rules, which means that owners cannot be prosecuted for failing to have the appropriate equine paperwork.
The Equine Sector Council said it is “immensely disappointed” that there will be no enforceable equine identification legislation in England for over 18 months, adding that it has “made its feelings clear” to Defra.
Roly Owers of World Horse Welfare, a member of the group added: “We cannot understand why an interim extension of the previous regulation could not have been put in place to cover this void.”
H&H has also received correspondence from concerned readers.
Mr Owers added: “It is imperative that the updated regulation will work in practice, be enforceable and be enforced. We will continue to work with Defra to try to reach this goal. Even if local authorities cannot take an owner to court for failing to have valid ID, it is still a legal obligation under EU law to have this ID in place once the EU law is implemented in the UK later next year.”
Many regulations still require a horse to be appropriately identified — such as those those going to an abattoir or competing in FEI events.
The regulations state that all horses born after 1 July 2009 have to be microchipped, so their records can be checked and updated and serve as a passport.
A Defra spokesman told H&H that the EU regulation would be fully implemented by 2017 but did not explain the delay.
She added: “The new regulations provide an opportunity to make long-term improvements which is why we are working closely with the Equine Sector Council to develop the best possible equine ID regime in England.
“We will consult on options available for new domestic legislation in summer 2016. This will include the possibility of extending the requirement for microchipping to include older horses and tougher enforcement powers for local authorities.”