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‘Digital passports’ cited as future in post-Brexit international equine travel

A “digital passport” for horses has been put forward as a solution to help smooth cross-border travel continue for competition, race and breeding horses from 2021.

The International Sport Horse Confederation (IHSC) taskforce for Brexit and European Union animal health law has formulated a digital passport that would be available and operational from the start of 2021.

It would allow for the free movement of horses between Britain and Europe, following the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020. It would also meet the requirements of new EU animal health legislation that comes into force at the start of next year.

A spokesman for the IHSC said the system would “simplify the movement of horses by providing authorities of EU countries with fail-safe information on each horse’s identity, as well as real-time monitoring of its movement and ownership information”

He added: “These passports would also contain up-to-date vaccination and medical records, allowing for a higher level of monitoring and prevention of potential disease outbreaks.”

Digital passports would be available from the start of next year, while paper passports would continue to be issued as this is required by the EU.

“Ultimately, if the system is approved by EU member states, it could be used as an alternative to paper passports,” added the spokesman.

“If adopted, it would ensure a level of identification, biosecurity and disease detection that goes beyond the scope of what is currently contained in the new EU animal health law legislation.”

The long-term aim is to create a Europe-wide network of databases, which registers a horse’s identity, allows for an equine to be easily located and identified, and ensures the secure movement of horses anywhere in Europe.

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The IHSC task force is made up of the FEI, the European Equestrian Federation, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation and the European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

The group has met weekly since May to work on ensuring continued unhindered movement of horses with guaranteed high health status, plus the temporary movement of workers in the industry — including grooms, riders, trainers, jockeys and vets — across EU borders.

IHSC task force chairman and FEI veterinary director Göran Akerström said this is an “unprecedented show of solidarity for the horse industry in Europe”.

“Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, the difficulties in implementing the new animal health law legislation, as well as the problems created by the global pandemic stand to adversely impact a regional industry which generates an annual revenue in excess of €50 billion and provides employment for more than 500,000 people,” added Dr Akerström.

“Any obstacles to the cross-border movement of horses and associated personnel would result in huge economic losses to Britain, Ireland and France, as well as other EU member states such as Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy.

“It is imperative that we put in place systems and processes to ensure the efficient and safe cross-border movement of horses and this digital passport would play a key role in that.”

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