‘I’d rather be fined than let my horse colic’: concern over new UK border ‘shambles’

  • Concerns have emerged about the inland border facility (IBF) at Sevington, as one owner has described it as “a shambles”.

    Sam Dean contacted H&H after a bad experience at the facility, near Ashford, Kent. H&H has reported that the border control post (BCP) for horses returning from Europe is due to open there this autumn. For now, it is here drivers must go to have their carnets stamped.

    Sam said she and her daughter had already had an “awful” journey back from Sentower, Belgium, which took two days owing to farmers’ protests, when they arrived at Sevington at about 4pm on 2 February.

    “The new facility is a shambles,” she said. “We had everything ready to be checked but it was packed and my allocated parking space was taken. The parking man was shouting, saying I needed to wait, the spaces are too tight; there were lorries everywhere trying to park in these too-small spaces, but I eventually managed to find one.

    “I wore my high-vis and went to get the carnets stamped but they said the office was shut as their computer system had gone down at midnight and they didn’t know how long we’d have to wait.”

    Sam said she was told she could wait, as other drivers seemed to be, or leave and go back later. She rang her shipping agent, who said the only other option would be to travel to Heathrow, an 80-mile journey on the M25 at rush hour.

    “My young horse was getting stressed; I thought he would colic. I didn’t think going to Heathrow would be safe for me or my horses; I had no choice but to take them home. I realised I either had to agree to pay a fine or let my horse colic, so I put my horse first and drove home without my carnet stamped.”

    Sam said she had no idea what the fine would be for not having the carnets – documents on which horses and equipments must be listed – stamped, but that she could not risk her horses’ welfare.

    “I’ve had one operated on for colic and I never want to do that again,” she said. “I thought we just had to go.”

    Sam also questioned the purpose of the checks; she had paid £645 for the horses’ health papers before the trip, and her carnets had been stamped in Calais, so “where do they think I’ve managed to hide the horses in between?”

    “I’d done everything right, but I couldn’t overcome the situation they put me and my horses in,” she said. “The way lorry drivers and their companies are treated is diabolical. The lack of animal welfare is shameful. Why should I be fined for putting horse welfare first?”

    Lauren Hirst, UK shipping manager for Peden Bloodstock, told H&H Peden has heard Sevington is not an ideal facility.

    “We have heard they don’t prioritise livestock and it can take hours for carnets to be stamped,” she said. “Most of our clients still choose to go to Motis at Dover Western Docks and pay the £10 for parking as they have heard bad things about Sevington and don’t want to take the chance.”

    Jan Rogers of the British Horse Council, who has been working with the Government to try to ensure things run smoothly when the BCP opens, told H&H she was grateful to Sam for reporting the issue.

    “We are very concerned to hear about these experiences and the more people that notify of delays and worrying experiences, the more examples we have to illustrate processes that need to be investigated,” she said.

    “Delays involving live animals need to be avoided at all costs, and facilities need to be of a suitable dimensions for equine transport vehicles to access safely. Contingency measures need to be in place for system errors; long backlogs are very worrying when it comes to horse wellbeing.”

    A spokesman for HMRC told H&H “Sevington IBF processes hundreds of customs checks each day and we strive to provide the highest levels of service. We are investigating the issues raised by this customer to see what happened in this case.”

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