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Microchipping all horses in England from 1 Oct 2020

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Autumn is upon us and horse owners are waving a solemn goodbye to pleasant weather and hacking out late into the evening. The end of this years’ Eventing season will be upon us in a matter of weeks, following the sport’s post-lockdown resumption in July. Flat racing will soon give way to National Hunt (but not before we see whether the amazing mare, Enable, will take home an historic third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October). Despite major disruption to competition and racing schedules this year due to the pandemic, the equestrian community has endured and the familiar rhythm of the equestrian calendar has not been entirely brought to a halt. 
 
There is another important date for your equestrian diary in October 2020. From 1st October 2020, all horses in England by law must be microchipped. If you are reading this in Wales, then the deadline is 12th February 2021 or 28th March 2021 for any Scottish-based readers. This is not a deadline to be missed, as failure to comply with the regulations will result in a £5,000 fine. 
 
You must also ensure that your horse has an up to date horse passport. The passport and microchipping regime are designed to compliment each other so that the horse’s identity can be ascertained if it is lost or stolen. The horse’s individual microchip number and passport details are added to the Central Equine Database, which holds information on over 1.2 million horses in the United Kingdom. The Police, Local Authorities or DEFRA can use the database to trace information about individual horses and reunite them with their owners. 
 
If you are heading out to compete during the winter or if you are buying and selling horses at the sales, then it is vital that you have the horse’s passport with you at all times. The only exceptions to the horse’s passport not being with the horse are where it is stabled or turned out at home, is being moved on foot or transported for emergency veterinary treatment. The passport must be made available for inspection within three hours of it being requested by any enforcement agency. There has been a worrying increase in people turning up to compete without their horse’s passport. Don’t be that person. You may be refused entry and have your details passed to the authorities. 
 
Although the horse passport legislation was introduced via an EU Directive, Brexit will not remove the legal requirement to ensure that your horse has an up to date passport and is microchipped. The legislation governing horse passports came into force before the UK left the EU and there are no current plans to reverse it. 
 
There is a lot to think about at present due to Covid-19, especially if you are a key worker who owns a horse or if you run an equestrian business, but getting this small yet important task out of the way now will save you a lot of hassle (and potentially money) in the long run. 
 
Contact a member of our Agricultural Law team at our Malton office on 01653 600070 for help and advice.