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Horse passports - why you need them and what they contain
All horses, ponies, donkeys and zebras need to have a horse passport to identify them. Find out why horse identification is important, what information a passport contains and what your responsibilities are as an owner.
Information included in a horse passport
Horse passports are small booklets that contain details about your horse, including:
- micro-chip details
- its age
- its breed/type
- all the medications it has been given (if it hasn't been declared ‘not intended for human consumption’)
Who needs a horse passport?
If you own a horse or are its main keeper, you are responsible for making sure you have an up-to-date horse passport so your horse can be identified. You could be fined up to £5000 if you don’t have one. Only the owner of a horse can apply for a passport.
Why you need a horse passport
Horse passports are important because they help to:
- make sure horses that have been treated with certain medicines don’t make it into food intended for humans
- prevent the sale of stolen horses – when you buy a horse, its passport proves its identity
If you don’t have a valid horse passport:
- you can’t move your horse
- vets may be restricted in the types of medicines they can give your horse
- you cannot have your horse slaughtered for human consumption
Having your horse passport available for inspection
You must make sure your horse’s passport is available for inspection at all times. You may be asked to show it by a trading standards inspector from your local council or an Animal Health Officer. This could happen at, for example, a horse market or road-side check.
If you are asked for the passport, but are in the process of applying for one, let the inspector know. If necessary, they will check your application details with the organisation issuing the passport.
If you move your horse at a time when its passport needs updating, you should plan carefully. You need to ensure that the passport is available for inspection at the time of the move.
You don’t need to have the passport on hand when the horse is:
- in its stable or grazing in a field
- being moved by foot
If you are asked for the horse’s passport during these times, you need to show it to the inspector within three hours.
Buying and selling a horse
When you sell a horse, you must hand over the passport to the new owner. They should let the ‘Passport Issuing Organisation’ (PIO) know that they have taken ownership of the horse within 30 days.
You must not buy or sell a horse without a horse passport. Contact your local Trading Standards office if you are sold a horse without a passport - they may prosecute the seller.
Loaning or borrowing a horse
A horse passport is an identification document and doesn’t, in itself, prove ownership. If you are loaning or borrowing a horse, it’s a good idea to include the passport arrangements in any loan agreement you negotiate.
Keeping your horse passport up-to-date
If you or your vet gives your horse ‘bute’ then the passport must be signed as ‘not intended for the food chain’. You must also keep the passport up-to-date if any details change – for example, if you move house.
For more information about updating a horse passport, see ‘Updating a horse passport and cancelling duplicates’.
Passports for foals, older horses and equine animals
All foals need to be micro-chipped as well as getting a passport. This must be done before the foal is six months old or by 31 December in the year it is born, whichever is later. If you want to sell your foal or move it without its dam earlier than this, you need to have it micro-chipped and get a passport.
If you have an older horse, which doesn't have a passport, you will need to get it micro-chipped as part of the passport application process. If it already has a valid horse passport, you won’t have to get your horse micro-chipped.
Zebras and ‘exotic’ horse species (like Przewalski’s horses) also need passports and microchips.
The diagram of the horse – the ‘silhouette’
If your horse is micro-chipped then the diagram of the horse (silhouette) is no longer compulsory. However, if your horse is registered with a breed society, their rules may state that you still need a silhouette as well.
Exemptions for wild or semi-wild horses
The only exemptions for horse passports are horses living in the New Forest, or on Dartmoor and Exmoor. These horses don’t need a micro-chip or passport while they remain in these areas, as long as they are registered in the appropriate studbook.
Special arrangements are in place that allow the ponies to move from the areas without a micro-chip. This arrangement doesn’t extend to all horses within the areas.
How to get or update a horse passport
For more information about getting a horse passport, or updating a current one, follow the links below.