Around 15,000 “invisible” foals could be being born in the UK each year, according to research by an equine welfare charity.

World Horse Welfare contacted 66 equine passport issuing organisations (PIOs) in the UK to ask for information on the number of foals they recorded in 2014.

Thirty-eight PIOs responded. Based on their statistics, plus estimates for those which did not reply, the charity calculated around 25,000 foals were born and recorded in the UK that year.

“Based on a total UK equine population of 800,000 the true number is likely to be around 40,000, with thousands of foals born every year that are unrecorded,” said Roly Owers of World Horse Welfare.

“We knew a good number were slipping under the radar but this is a shocking estimate, and we need collective action to make things change.”

EU legislation requires all horses and ponies to have a valid passport and corresponding microchip by the age of six months, or by 31 December in the year they were born — whichever is later.

“Not knowing this is certainly no excuse for what is a very basic part of responsible ownership,” Mr Owers told H&H. “Equally though, people need to have confidence in the whole system of equine identification, and that is simply not the case at the moment — the sector needs to continue working with government to bring about radical change (news, 18 February).”


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He added foals not on a PIO database cannot be linked to anyone responsible for their care and vets cannot give medicinal products to equines without passports.

Around 70% of equines collected by the RSPCA do not have a microchip.

“The RSPCA and other equine welfare charities are still seeing the effects of the horse crisis, which has been going on for several years now,” the RSPCA’s David Bowles told H&H.

Ref: H&H 3 March, 2016