Listed below are the most frequently asked questions that the BHS Passport Office receives. If you have a question which hasn’t been answered here please do not hesitate to contact the Passport Office on 02476 840574 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buying and Loaning Horses
Section IX (or section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016)
Do all horses need an equine passport?
Yes. Horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and zebras must have an equine passport, even if they never leave their field. This is applicable across the United Kingdom as stated in the following regulations:
- England: The Horse Passports Regulations 2009
- Scotland: The Horse Identification (Scotland) Regulations 2009
- Wales: Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2009
- Northern Ireland: The Horse Passports Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010
The legislation states that owners or keepers with the primary responsibility for the care of the horse, have a legal duty to ensure that the horse is correctly identified.
Why were passports introduced?
The passport legislation is an EU Directive, so therefore the United Kingdom (UK) must comply. The purpose of horse passports is to protect the human food chain and to ensure that no horses that are treated with certain drugs, for example Bute, are slaughtered for human consumption.
Within the EU, horsemeat is commonly eaten and horses from the UK can end up in the human food chain. It is important that the UK complies with the legislation as failure to do so could result in the withdrawal of a number of key equine medicines from sale.
When would I need to produce my horse’s passport?
Horses must be accompanied by their passport at all times. The exceptions are when the horse is stabled, out at pasture or if the horse is moved on foot. However, the passport must be made available within three hours of it being requested by an enforcement agency.
The passport must always accompany the horse:
- when the horse is moved into or out of the United Kingdom
- when the horse is used at a competition
- when the horse is moved to new premises
- when the horse is presented at a slaughterhouse for slaughter
- at the time a horse is sold
- when the horse is used for breeding purposes
- when a veterinary surgeon attends the horse to administer vaccinations or if the horse requires medication
- when the horse is transported. Note: the only exception when the passport is not required is when the horse is being transported for emergency veterinary treatment.
In addition, passport details, such as the Unique Equine Life Number, are often required by insurance companies when insuring your horse.
My horse was passported before compulsory microchipping was introduced on 1 July 2009. Does my horse now have to be microchipped?
From 1 October 2018 it will be mandatory for all owners to microchip their horses, ponies and donkeys. Owners will have two years to comply with the new regulations, until October 2020. The Central Equine Database will then allow local authorities and police to track the owners of abandoned horses and lost or stolen horses will be reunited with their owners more easily.
My horse obtained a passport before compulsory microchipping. However, I have decided to microchip my horse; how do I update the passport?
It is important to ensure you update the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation so that the microchip number can be added to your horse’s record on the database. The vet that implanted the new microchip must add the barcode sticker into the passport, and sign and stamp to confirm they inserted it. If the BHS has issued your horse’s passport, return this to the BHS Passport Office with a Passport Update form to request that the microchip details are updated on the database. There is no charge for this service; although if you would like your passport to be returned by recorded delivery (Signed For™), please enclose a cheque for £3.
Who enforces the equine passport laws?
The Meat Hygiene Service is responsible for enforcing the checks carried out at slaughterhouses. In all other circumstances Local Authorities are responsible for enforcing the legislation.
Is there a central database?
Equine Register provides and manages the Central Equine Database and National ChipChecker for Defra. There are 81 UK Passport Issuing Organisations and Equine Register manages their data on the Central Equine Database, which houses over 1.2 Million equine records. To check a microchip or access the Central Equine Database, visit: www.equineregister.co.uk/home
What are the penalties for non-compliance of the passport legislation?
Failing to identify horses in accordance with the legislation could result in a fine of up to £5,000.
Are there derogations in place for horses that do not have to be passported?
Yes. The legislation allows Ministers to recognise designated areas of wild or semi-wild populations that remain within a specified area without the legal requirement of having to obtain a passport or microchip. The derogation is in place until certain events occur whereby the legislation stipulates what actions the owner must complete.
When will my horse be automatically be signed out of the human food chain?
Please be aware that the Central Equine Database will automatically rule horses out of the human food chain in the following circumstances:
- The passport was issued more than 12 months after the date of birth
- The country of birth is ‘unknown’
- The horse has more than one microchip
- The horse is imported into the UK without a valid passport
Is there a deadline to apply for a new passport?
Yes. Under the legislation, foals must have a passport and microchip within six months of birth or before 30 November of the year in which they were born, whichever date occurs later.
My horse does not have a passport and is not microchipped. What do I need to do?
If you have owned your horse since the passport regulations were introduced in 2004 and have not obtained a passport for your horse, you are committing an offence. Therefore, you will need to apply for a passport as soon as possible and your horse will also need to be microchipped.
If you are not sure whether your horse has been previously passported, you will need to make enquiries with the Passport Issuing Organisations (PIO's) to check if the passport was originally issued by them. A full list of approved PIOs is available from Defra. If the original PIO cannot be located, a replacement passport can be applied for. The passport will be stamped as a replacement and Section IX Part II (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) will be signed by the issuing PIO, declaring that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
If your horse is of a particular breed you can apply for a passport via the relevant breed society as long as the horse meets the specific registration requirements. Further information about registration requirements will be available directly from the breed society.
I have rescued a horse. Can I apply for a new passport?
Before applying for a new passport the new owner must ensure that they conduct all appropriate checks to try and locate the horse’s original Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO). If the original PIO is located, a duplicate passport can be requested.
In the event that the original PIO cannot be located, a replacement passport can be applied for. Once the PIO is satisfied that the horse was genuinely rescued, a replacement passport will be issued. The passport will be stamped as a replacement and Section IX Part II (or Section II Part II for all passports issued from 1 January 2016) will be signed declaring that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
If you would like to apply for a replacement passport with the BHS, please visit our replacement passport page.
Can I apply for a BHS passport if I don’t like my horse’s current passport?
No. If your horse already has an official EU passport it is an offence to apply for another passport.
If my horse is freezemarked, does it still have to be microchipped if applying for a new or replacement passport?
Yes. Since 1 July 2009, all new and replacement passport applications include mandatory microchipping of the horse. Freeze branding is not an acceptable alternative to microchipping under equine identification legislation.
Can veterinary or breed certificates be used in place of a passport?
No. The horse must be issued with an EU passport. Failure to obtain a passport for your horse is an offence.
I have bought a horse; what do I need to do with the passport?
It is the responsibility of the new owner to change the ownership in the passport with the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) within 30 days of the date when the change of ownership was completed, or face penalties. It is important to send the passport to the correct PIO; a full list of PIOs is available from Defra.
This also applies to those (e.g. dealers) who only possess the horse for a short time period of time. The physical passport must be sent to the PIO for updating, it cannot be done online. A person who transfers a horse to another person must give them the passport at the time of transfer.
If you have a BHS passport further details can be found on our change of ownership page.
I have bought a horse that has a ‘third country’ or non-UK EU passport, but the horse lives in the UK. How do I update the passport?
It is important that the change of ownership is still completed within the 30-day period from the purchase date of the horse. Valid passports issued in another EU Member State for horses kept on a UK holding can be updated by any PIO which must notify the change of record to the Central Equine Database of the Member State. A full list of authorised PIOs in the UK is available from Defra.
I have bought a horse that has been imported into the UK without a valid passport. How do I obtain a passport?
Owners must apply for a ‘new re-issue’ passport for horses coming into the UK without a valid passport from any UK based PIO. A full list of authorised PIOs in the UK is available from Defra.
I have joint ownership on a horse; the other owner has sold their share of the horse to me. What do I need to do?
This is still classed as a change of ownership and the new owner will need to notify the correct PIO within 30 days after purchasing the full ownership of the horse.
If the passport was issued by the BHS further information on how to change the ownership is available from our change of ownership page.
My horse has been microchipped due to the legislation enforced from 1st October 2018, do I need to contact my PIO?
Yes, when your horse has a microchip inserted, your vet must add the barcode sticker in the passport, sign and stamp to verify they inserted it. You must then send the passport and a Passport Update form to your PIO so they can update their records and the Central Equine Database.
My horse has had some veterinary treatment and has been given medication; do I need to do anything?
If your horse has received medications which are not permitted for animals intended for slaughter for human consumption e.g. phenylbutazone, you need to contact your PIO within 14 days of your horse receiving the medication. For more information about which medications you will need to notify your PIO about, please click here.
Can I make any manual changes to the passport myself?
No. It is an offence to:
- destroy or deface a passport
- alter any details in the passport
- be in possession of a passport knowing it is forged.
All updates regarding the owner of the horse must be made by the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO).
Horse passports are often issued before the horse reaches full maturity which can result in the height and colour details becoming incorrect over time. It is important you contact the relevant PIO to discuss their administration process for amending the horse details.
Find out more about updating passports issued by the BHS.
What happens in the event of a civil matter involving a BHS passport?
Any dispute involving a BHS passport will need to be reported to the BHS Passport Office. A note will be added to the horse’s record and no further changes will be made to the passport until the matter has been fully resolved. Details of the dispute may be requested in writing by the Society. The BHS cannot directly become involved with any disputes. In such circumstances, the BHS will liaise with the relevant Trading Standards Officer.
I’ve changed my address; what do I need to do with the passport?
In the event of any changes, the passport will need to be updated. Therefore, the owner must contact the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation to notify them of their change of address within 30 days.
If the passport has been issued by the BHS further information is available from our change of address page.
My horse’s passport has been badly damaged; can I request another copy?
A request for a duplicate passport will need to be made with the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation. If the passport was issued by the BHS visit our duplicate passport page for more information.
What do I do with the passport in the event of my horse’s death?
The legislation states that upon the death of a horse, the passport must be returned to the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) within 30 days of the death of the horse. Failure to return the passport is an offence.
If you are proceeding with a mortality claim with your insurance company, ensure you contact the insurance company before returning your horse’s passport. It is highly likely the insurance company will request that the passport is sent to them before it is returned to the relevant PIO. All insurance companies are fully aware of the 30 day time restriction and will return the passport to the original PIO on your behalf before the deadline. Ensure you make it very clear to the insurance company should you wish to have the passport returned to you as a keepsake so that the insurance company can notify the PIO accordingly.
If the passport was issued by the BHS further information can be found on our deceased equines page.
Buying and loaning
I am looking to buy a horse – what steps should I take regarding the passport?
It is a legal requirement that a horse is sold with its passport. The BHS strongly advises that buyers do not purchase the horse if it does not have a passport. The owner of the horse must obtain a passport for the horse before it is sold. If you decide to purchase a horse without a passport, an offence will be committed if the horse is then transported to its new yard without a passport.
The buyer of the horse should check that the passport matches the description of the horse. If the passport was issued from 1 July 2009 the passport may not have a completed silhouette but will have a microchip number. The BHS advises that before purchasing a horse a pre-purchase veterinary examination is completed. At the time of the examination the veterinary surgeon can check that the implanted microchip in the horse matches the microchip number in the passport. For further advice see the BHS advice on Buying or Loaning a Horse (pdf).
At the time of purchasing the horse the registered owner must give the passport to the buyer. If the horse is not being sold but the ownership is being formally transferred, the new owner must still receive the passport.
My horse is going out on loan; what should happen with the horse’s passport?
It is a legal requirement that the horse’s original passport remains with the horse. Therefore, when a horse is put out on loan the keeper must have the passport; photocopies are not acceptable.
There are a number of steps owners can take if they are putting their horse on loan but feel uncomfortable about parting with their original passport:
- Contact the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) and advise that your horse is going out on loan. The PIO should add a note to the horse’s record and can check with you directly if they receive a request to change the horse’s ownership details
- If your horse hasn’t been microchipped, this is an option that could be considered so that the identity of the horse can be definitively proven. It is important to ensure you up-date the PIO so the microchip number is added to your horse’s record
- The owner can take a photocopy of the horse’s passport for their records and can prove that the passport pre-dates any illegal replacement passports that an unscrupulous loaner may have applied for. This will be more effective if the horse has been microchipped
Further information is available from the BHS advice on Buying or Loaning a Horse (pdf).
I have taken a horse on loan without a passport. Can the keeper apply for a new passport?
No. The regulations state that only an owner of the horse can apply for a passport. The primary keeper of the horse should ensure the horse has a passport before agreeing to take the horse on loan. It is an offence to keep a horse without a passport.
Why do I need to produce the passport before the vet administers specific medications?
To safeguard the human food chain, specific medications are prohibited for use in animals that are intended for human consumption. In order to verify that the horse has been signed out of the food chain, and can therefore receive these medicines, the veterinary surgeon has a duty to check Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) of the horse’s passport. If the declaration has been signed as not intended for human consumption, the medication can be administered, supplied or prescribed to the horse.
In passports where Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) has not been signed, the owner must duly sign Section IX Part II (or Section II Part II for passports issued from 1 January 2016). If the owner refuses to sign the declaration, the veterinary surgeon must do so.
If the veterinary surgeon is in attendance due to an emergency and the passport is not available, this denies their ability to verify the status of Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016). Therefore, under the legislation, they can only administer medication that is approved for food producing animals.
Further information is available from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016)
My horse’s passport has been returned with Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) completed. Why has this been done?
The current legislation states that Section IX Part II (or Section II Part II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) of the passport must be signed by the Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) to declare that the horse is not for human consumption when:
- the passport was applied for after the horse turned six months old, or 31 December in its year of birth (whichever is later). Therefore, any older horse will be automatically signed out of the food chain.
- any replacement or duplicate passport is issued
- an original passport has been located after a duplicate had been issued
- a Section IX page has been added to an existing passport.
Can a new owner revoke the Section IX (or Section II for passports issued from 1 January 2016) declaration?
No. Once Section IX Part II has been signed declaring that the horse is not intended for human consumption, it cannot be revoked.
My passport is missing Section IX; what do I need to do?
If your horse’s passport is missing the Section IX page, it would have been issued before 10 June 2004. Without Section IX the passport is not fully valid. The owner should contact the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) to request Section IX is added to the passport. When a PIO adds a Section IX page to an existing passport, they legally have to sign Section IX Part II to declare that the horse is not intended for human consumption.
If you have a BHS passport without a Section IX, please return the passport with a covering letter (including your contact details) requesting that the Section IX page is added.
I have not received my horse’s passport back from the BHS; what I should do?
If you have not received your horse’s passport back after the specific processing time has passed, please contact the Passport Office on 02476 840574. The passport may have been delayed for a specific reason, in which case, the Passport Administrator will have made efforts to contact you to discuss the problem.
The BHS cannot be held responsible for any passports that go missing in the post. In such circumstances, horse owners will need to contact Royal Mail to attempt to resolve the issue. If the passport cannot be located, a duplicate passport will need to be applied for; the administration charge for this service is still applicable.
How can an original passport be traced?
There are 81 UK Passport Issuing Organisations (PIO) and Equine Register manages their data on the Central Equine Database, which houses over 1.2 Million equine records. To check a microchip or access the Central Equine Database, visit: www.equineregister.co.uk/home. If the horse does not have a microchip, PIOs will need to be contacted individually. If your horse is of a specific breed, a good starting point will be to contact the relevant breed society. A full list of PIOs is available from Defra.
Where can I find further information on the passport regulations?
England: Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Scotland: The Scottish Government
Wales: Welsh Government
Northern Ireland: Department of Agriculture and Rural Development