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For Equine Vets Everywhere


Since 30th June 2004, all horses, ponies and donkeys in England are required to have a passport. They can be obtained from a large number of Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs) for a small fee. A full list of PIOs can be found on the DEFRA website. The passport will contain a section where the owner declares whether the animal is ultimately intended for human consumption. This is to ensure that certain veterinary medicines do not inadvertently end up in the human food chain. Vendors of horses are required to possess an up-to-date passport at the time the horse is offered for sale and a prospective purchaser should ask to view it before purchasing the horse.


New regulations came into effect concerning passports (in July 2009), in all EU Member States. These include, but are not limited to, mandatory microchipping with all passport applications, passport availability at all times, checking passports before medical treatment, and recording all vaccinations.

  • Q: When does my client need to apply for her foal’s passport? A: This needs to be done within six months of birth, or by December 31st of the year of the foal’s birth, whichever is later.
  • Q: My client’s pony is freeze branded. Does he still need to be microchipped? A: Yes. All equidae must be microchipped, in addition to any other means of identification.
  • Q: My client is a trained microchip implanter for pets. She wishes to microchip her foals herself. Is this OK? A: No. The microchip must only be implanted by a qualified veterinary surgeon.
  • Q: On scanning a horse before inserting a microchip, I found that there was already a microchip in situ. What should I do? A: Do not insert another microchip. The owner must inform the PIO who will attempt to trace the horse’s background, and issue a replacement passport with Part II of Section IX signed.
  • Q: My client’s horse has a small, deep scar in the area where a microchip should be implanted, yet nothing registers on the scanner. Can I still implant a chip? A: If you are absolutely sure that no microchip is present, it may have been surgically removed. You may implant a new one, but the PIO will sign Part II of Section IX.
  • Q: My client wishes to sell her foal in October. Do I need to microchip it before the sale? A: If the sale is before the end of the year in which the foal was born, it does not need to have a passport for reasons of sale, and the new owner will have thirty days in which to apply for it. However, if the sale results in the foal being exported without its dam or foster mother, then it will need a passport and microchip.
  • Q: What do I need to advise a client at the euthanasia of her old pony? A: During this emotionally traumatic time, please remind the client to return the passport to the PIO within thirty days, with information of the date of death.
  • Q: Do I need to see a passport for every horse I treat? A: Yes. You must ask to see the passport before you administer, supply or prescribe anything. It is now an offence not to ask to see the passport before treating the horse. 
  • Q: I know for certain that a client’s horse was given phenylbutazone, yet he refuses to sign Part II of Section IX to say the horse is not eligible for human consumption. What should I do? A: The vet must then sign it.
  • Q: The police called me to attend to a runaway horse which had been hit by a car. Its ownership was unknown at the time of the emergency, and I had to treat it without knowing whether it was eligible as a food producing animal or not. Did I commit an offence? A: If you only used medications which are permitted in food producing animals, then you are OK. However, it is now an offence to treat a horse with a substance unsuitable for use in a food producing animal if its Section IX status is unknown.
  • Q: My client intends to send his horse for human consumption, and I only use medications which are suitable for food producing animals. Do I have to record these medications? A: It is an offence to fail to record the administrations of medications to an animal destined for the human food chain, under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2008.
  • Q: Must I record the administration of anything given to a client’s pony which has had Part II of Section IX signed? A: All vaccines given must be recorded in the passport, regardless of whether the pony is eligible for human consumption or not. It is now an offence not to comply with this regulation.
  • Q: Is it true that zebras must have passports and microchips? A: All wild and domesticated solipeds (having an undivided hoof), in the genus Equus of the family Equidae, and their crosses are now covered by the new regulations. The only exceptions are defined populations of identified, listed wild and semi-wild horses in designated areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest, about whom more details are given on the DEFRA website.
  • Q: Where can I find out more details about the new regulations? A: The DEFRA website has the full current guidelines, at www.defra.gov.uk Reference: DEFRA. Guide to the Horse Passport Regulations 2009. www.defra.gov.uk. August 2009.