Your horse may be microchipped, but have you let the paperwork lapse? A new law requires the process to be complete, discovers Andrea Oakes
As of October 2020, new legislation requires that all horses, ponies and donkeys in England must be microchipped.
While the organised owner may feel that they’ve already ticked this box, a surprising number of equines are not fully protected by this affordable identity safeguard.
“Almost half of the horses on the central equine database (CED) are not linked to a microchip – either because they haven’t had a chip implanted or because the chip has not been registered with, or by, the horse’s passport-issuing organisation (PIO),” says David Mountford of the British Horse Council, referring to findings presented at the National Equine Forum in March.
“Even among conscientious owners, a high proportion of the records provided to the database by the PIOs contained errors or were out of date.”
Weaknesses in the old system may have been to blame, but experts agree that chipping can only be effective if we join the links in the chain.
“The ability to connect every horse, via his microchip, to a record on the CED and thereby to his last registered owner, has fantastic health and welfare implications,” says David.
According to Jo Burnett MRCVS of Valley Equine Hospital, microchipping provides a definitive means of identification in a number of scenarios.
“Every chip has a unique code that can be scanned by a hand-held reader,” she says. “Being able to prove that a horse is what he is said to be ensures full transparency during a sale, can help solve ownership disputes and increases the chance of being reunited with an animal after straying or theft.
“There are implications for competition, with anti-doping regulations, and for medication control for horses entering the food chain,” adds Jo.
“The new requirement should make it easier to hold people accountable in cases of abuse or abandonment.
“Microchipping is a straightforward procedure, but such a positive step towards horse welfare.”
Register with the CED’s “Digital Stable” (equineregister.co.uk) and check whether the data held about yourself and your horse is correct. If it isn’t, use the Digital Stable to notify your horse’s UK passport issuer of necessary changes. Your UK PIO may also request that you also return the horse’s passport.
If there is no chip recorded in your horse’s passport or on his database record, arrange for your vet to visit, check for an existing chip and implant one if necessary. Notify the Digital Stable of the new chip number online.
Chipping Q&A with Jo Burnett MRCVS
Q: What does insertion involve?
A: A tiny chip is implanted into the nuchal ligament under the horse’s mane. The procedure is quick, relatively painless and usually tolerated well.
Q: Can complications arise?
A: Very rarely. There is a tiny chance that an abscess may develop. Occasionally, a chip can migrate along the neck; this can make detection more difficult, but should cause the horse no harm.
Q: Is my older horse’s chip outdated?
A: The chip should be fine, as long as information is kept up to date and linked with the passport details on the CED. Some new chips have additional capabilities, such as recording core temperature, but the legal requirement is the unique identification code.
Q: Can my foal be chipped?
A: Legislation requires horses to be chipped by six months old or by 30 November in the year of birth – whichever is later. The sooner the better since natural colours can change and markings can develop, making identification less easy.
Q: Should I check for a chip before I buy a horse?
A: It is normal practice for a vet to scan a horse presented for a pre-purchase examination. Anyone can use the “ChipChecker” on the Digital Stable to see whether a chip is registered.
Ref Horse & Hound; 10 September 2020