With just over a month until 28 February, when all horses, ponies and donkeys are legally required to have passports, at least a quarter of a million horses are still without one and the last-minute rush is on.
Though several of the 75-plus passport-issuing organisations (PIOs) still have considerable backlogs — the Arab Horse Society has a nine-month wait and the BHS 10 weeks — many claim to be able to turn applications around in less than a week.
DEFRA has advised PIOs to continue processing passports and accepting new applications after the deadline.
A DEFRA spokesman says: “Enforcement will be fair and proportionate, for example, taking into consideration the situation whereby an owner has applied for, but not yet received, a passport.”
Prices start at little more than £10, but ID requirements vary and owners may have to pay a vet to complete the ID on top of this. However, many PIOs are able to scan or transfer markings from a vaccination or vetting certificate. Some PIOs, such as the Veteran Horse Society, require photos in order to comply with their own constitutions over ID.
Several PIOs have authorised people other than vets to complete the silhouette — such as breeders and specially trained individuals, who charge a nominal fee for the service. Meanwhile Scottish law allows owners to do the ID.
Jackie Aird from Scottish Sports Horse, who can turn around a passport in four weeks, says: “I’m getting a lot of applications from England at the moment. Around 99% of owners do the sketches correctly, but I do have to send some back and ask them to get help.”
A horse must be accompanied by its passport when it moves into or out of Britain; at competitions; when it moves to a new keeper; when it is taken to an abattoir; when it is sold, or when it is used for breeding purposes. However, DEFRA has told Horse & Hound that restrictions on the movement of a horse without its passport do not extend to hunting.
“It is not expected that any new or alternative form of hunting will require passports to accompany the horse,” says a DEFRA spokesman.
DEFRA would not elaborate on the resources local authorities would be given to police passports.
“Adequate training and guidance will be given,” insists the spokesman. “We are in consultation with local authorities to ensure they are fully prepared for 1 March.”