Since July 2009, all foals, whether horses, ponies or donkeys have had to be microchipped.

The idea behind this is that equines can be identified more quickly and easily. This should mean that lost or stolen equines can be re-united with their owners; thieves can be deterred in the first place; the owners of apparently abandoned animals can be traced as can owners where the animals look to have welfare issues and help control disease outbreaks.

From 1 October this year it will be compulsory for equines to be microchipped.

The Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, has today called on all horse, pony and donkey owners in England to get their animals microchipped ahead of 1 October 2020 as part of a move to tackle horse theft, improve equine traceability and improve animal welfare.

From this date it will be mandatory in England for all equine owners to microchip their animals. The Central Equine Database will mean local authorities and the police can track down owners who abandon their horses, donkeys and ponies, helping to improve animal welfare standards, while also helping prevent horse theft.

Owners will also be legally required to make sure that their animals’ details are up-to-date on the Central Equine Database, which can be accessed online via the Digital Stable. Failure to do this could result in sanctions from the local authority, including a fine.

However, as is so often the case, it may be that law – abiding owners will comply, but there will always be those that don’t, partly because they don’t want their animals to be identified!  If you are an irresponsible owner who doesn’t mind “fly grazing” your animals – turning them onto land belonging to others to graze-or may not have the highest welfare standards, you may prefer to take your chance if your horses and ponies are seized and can’t be identified.  In 2019, the RSPCA received more than 21,000 reports to its cruelty hotline and took 875 horses into care. Around 70% of these were not microchipped.  This meant that the chances of finding the owners and bringing welfare prosecutions were greatly reduced if not impossible.  Such owners may just go on to acquire other animals to replace those seized and so the cycle continues.

Will the police and the local authorities have enough resources to enforce these new laws?

Having said that, whilst it may not provide the perfect solution, it has to go a few steps further in promoting horse welfare and preventing thefts.  Make sure your horse is one of the protected ones by getting him or her microchipped if not done already.

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