Your horse can be permanently identified by a microchip, which is inserted half way down the crest of the neck on the left hand side. The chips are completely safe and contain a unique life number, which is easily read by a scanner. You are registered as the owner and the chip absolutely identifies the horse as yours.
The chip is a useful addition to identification in passport documents, it helps deter theft and will greatly increase your chance of recovering your animal if it is stolen or strays.
Since 2005, all horses, ponies and donkeys are required by law to have a passport. The purpose of the passport is to identify each animal and to state whether the horse is to be used for human consumption or not. This is called section ix and should be signed by each subsequent owner of the animal.
If the horse is not signed out of the food chain, all medications given to that horse must be recorded in the medication pages, this includes everything from wormers through to antibiotics. Some drugs cannot be given to horses such as phenylbutazone (bute) and chloramphenicol (antibiotic) if the animal is to be used for human consumption. For this reason, most horse owners sign their animals out of the food chain, enabling the horse to be treated without restriction if and when required.
Once a horse has been signed out of the food chain it cannot be changed from this status, if section ix is not signed it is assumed that the horse IS intended for human consumption and so ALL medications must be recorded.
In 2009, it became law that every foal born must have a passport and microchip by the time they are 6 months old (or by 31st December the year of birth - whichever is later).
A passport lasts the horse's lifetime, if the passport is lost it is illegal to apply for a new one. The owner must apply to the original passport issuing office and request a duplicate or replacement passport. These replacement passports and any passports issued to foals older than 6 months of age will automatically exclude the animal from entering the human food chain.
The passport must be with the animal at all times whether it is at a yard or travelling to shows, you could be asked to present your horse's passport at any time by trading standards. An unlimited fine applies if you cannot present a valid passport for any animal in your care when requested to do so.
The passport may also be requested by a veterinary surgeon before medications are administered.
You must be the owner of the animal if applying for a passport in England. Be aware that there are different identification rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
You can apply for a passport through various Passport Issuing Offices (PIO) in the UK such as the welsh pony society, Anglo European Studbook, the British horse society, Defra, Pet ID to name but a few. Application fees can be found online, which vary between each PIO and application forms easily downloaded. Specific breeds can be issued passports from their own breed society.
Once you have the passport application form, fill in the owner's section and your vet will complete the rest. Your animal will be scanned for a microchip and if one is not found, a microchip will be inserted and the microchip number and animal identification details filled in on the passport application form. If a microchip is found then the microchip number can be checked with the equine database to find the history of the horse as it should have a passport. A duplicate or replacement passport can then be requested from the PIO that issued the original PIO if known.
Any foal must be microchipped and have a passport before it is 6 months old or by 31st December of the year of birth, whichever is latest.
It is an offence if you do not apply for a passport before this deadline. An animal without a passport cannot be sold for human consumption at the end of its life.