Passport to animal welfare

Passports are essential for the care of any horse

Passports are essential for the care of any horse - Credit: Archant

Keeping track of a horse’s life history is a legal requirement to prevent misuse of animals. British Horse Society welfare education officer Emmeline Hannelly gives a guide to horse passports

It is a legal requirement (with a few rare exceptions) that horses have a passport. A passport lasts the animal’s lifetime and records its species and height, ownership, microchip number (post 2009) and whether it is intended for human consumption.

The law states a passport must be kept with the horse, so if an animal is kept at a livery, the passport must also be kept there. When a horse is out at pasture, stabled or moved on foot, the passport must be made available within three hours of a request by an enforcement officer. But what purpose do passports serve?

In everyday horse management a passport may be required. For example, if an animal requires veterinary treatment and the owner cannot show the vet a signed Section IX (not intended for human consumption), the vet may be limited on what drugs can administered.

When transporting a horse, the driver must ensure he or she has the passport for each animal. Failure to do so is not only an offence but, in the event of a breakdown, recovery companies have the right to deny transporting any horse – a frightening prospect for anyone stranded on the side of a busy road. The only exception when a passport is not required is when a horse is being transported for emergency veterinary treatment.

Insurance companies require passports in the event of mortality claims to check ownership. The insurance company is responsible for returning the passport to the original passport issuing organisation (PIO) within 30 days of the death of a horse.

It’s important to remember that foals must have a passport within six months of birth or before December 31 of the year they were born, whichever date occurs later. The British Horse Society is an approved PIO and can issue passports to horses of unknown breeding.

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It is a legal requirement that any changes to ownership details in a passport are made within 30 days of buying a horse, this also applies to the owner moving home or changing their name. In these instances, contact the relevant PIO to have the passport updated.

With continued commitment from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs it is anticipated passport legislation will become more enforceable - so horse owners need to check all passports are compliant. Those unable to show a valid passport for an animal in their care could be fined up to £5,000.

To apply for, or make updates to a BHS passport, call 02476 840517 or email