For many years equestrian organisations ( eg. racing, showjumping, eventing and pedigree breed organisations ) have been issuing passports, because it is essential that within their remit the animal must be conclusively identified so that cheating and /or misrepresentation can be avoided. Initially, only a passport with such details as colour, markings, age and height was available, and in breed society issued documents, pedigree. More recently, scientific advances have made identification more definitive, with microchipping and DNA proof of parentage having been added in most cases.
Nevertheless, in the recent past there has been confusion as to how the new equine identification regulations within the E.U should be implemented. Initially DEFRA approved almost anyone who applied for the right to issue passports within the U.K. At present, they wish to restrict the issuing of equine passports to one single authority. This latter approach is in complete contravention with current E.U regulations.
E.U regulations are difficult to interpret, because there are so many draft regulations, and at each stage an individual draft may be incomplete in that frequently it refers to previous drafts. Unless one has the complete portfolio one cannot have the complete picture.
It is also important to read the equine identification regulations along with those of the council regulation (EC) No 1/2003 regarding the transport of animals. This is because equidae with a properly prepared passport are regarded as “registered”, and by inference, considered to be valuable animals who are properly cared for ( fed and watered regularly during their journey, and transported in safe conditions ) and thus exempt from many of the Department of Transport restrictions.
The definitive document on equine identification appears to be the
“Commission Regulation of implementing Council Directives 90/426/EEC and 90/427/EEC as regards the method for identifying Equidae”.
This document defines what constitutes a passport and who may issue such a document. It also states that “member states should be able to allow a simplified identification document to be used for equidae being moved within their territory”.
It is essential that all horse owners are aware of the distinction between a passport and a simplified identification document. Under Department of Transport regulations, an I.D. document only permits transport of the animal within the country of registration. Therefore in the case of horses in Ireland, an I.D. document does not authorise travel over the border from North to South or vice-versa. In law, anyone wishing to cross borders with an animal having only an I.D. document, should in fact first obtain a passport.
The Council Directives also defines those bodies which are approved to issue passports for registered equidae. Briefly those approved are either :
a) bodies which manage studbooks or registers for a particular breed, or
(b) international associations or organisations which manage horses for competition or racing.
Such organisations are internationally recognised and equines registered with them can travel worldwide, subject only to specific disease controls according to the countries concerned.
Many of the 80 plus authorities which have to date been ‘approved’ by DEFRA do NOT in fact meet these criteria, and therefore should only be issuing simple identification charts for use within a member state. Passports generally cost more than I.D. documents , but are more than worth the difference, especially when considered over the lifetime of the equine, due to freedom of movement and the proof of pedigree and other permanent records which they allow.
Non – compliant organisations should neither be classified nor regarded as Passport Issuing Organisations (PIO’s).
A passport for registered horses is a legal document. It is printed in both English and French, and contains several sections as laid out in Annex 1 of the regualtions. It includes an identification chart which must be completed by a veterinary surgeon, the name and date of birth of the animal, and the bar code and microchip number. There are also pages for vaccination records, laboratory tests, change of ownership, and registered competition winnings and gradings. In addition, breed society passports will include the pedigree of the animal. Mare passports have pages to record dates and details of coverings.
InNorthern Ireland, the Dept of Agriculture and Rural Affairs does a very strict examination before it designates a body as a PIO.
I would advise all horse owners if possible to acquire a proper passport if they intend to travel between E.U states and not to take the cheap fix offered by agencies which only issue an identification document. Considered long term, the extra investment is minimal, as a passport is a valuable record which remains with an animal for its lifetime. Do it once, and do it right !
Showjumping Ireland ( Ulster Region).