Owners who do not microchip horses, ponies and donkeys in England by October 2020 could be fined £200, Defra has announced.

A law requiring owners to ensure equines are chipped has been introduced today (25 June), to “prevent abuse and improve welfare”.

Previously, only those equines born since July 2009 had to be chipped, but the new law comes into force in October 2020, allowing owners of older horses time to comply.

“The government shares the British public’s high regard for animal welfare and it is completely unacceptable that hundreds of horses and ponies are left abandoned every year by irresponsible owners,” said animal welfare minister Lord Gardiner.

“That is why we have today laid new regulations in parliament requiring horses to be microchipped. This will bolster the ability of local authorities and police to identify abandoned animals, ensuring these beautiful creatures receive the care they deserve and that those who mistreat them will face the consequences.”

Once the law is in force, the Central Equine Database will enable local authorities and police to track down the owners of dumped horses and “make sure they are punished and the animals given the care they deserve”.

Owners of non-microchipped equines could face local authority sanctions including compliance notices or, as a “last resort”, fines of up to £200.

Defra believes the move will also mean lost and stolen horses can be reunited with owners more easily.

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“We are working closely with vets and the British Horse Council to highlight the change in regulations, explaining that horse owners have until October 2020 to make sure that all horses are microchipped,” said a Defra spokesman.

“This extra time will allow horse owners to combine microchipping with a routine visit to, or from, their vet with the procedure costing around £25-30.”

H&H reported in April that the law was to be introduced.

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