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Defra has a close interest in the health and welfare of horses as with other animal species.

Horse passports

All horse owners need to obtain a passport for each horse they own. This includes ponies, donkeys, and other equidae. Foals and adult horses identified  after 31 July 2009 must be implanted with a microchip prior to passport applications being made for them. Owners cannot sell, export, slaughter for human consumption, use for the purposes of competition or breeding, a horse which does not have a passport.

Health and welfare, diseases

If you have a specific query regarding your horse or pony’s health or welfare, you should contact your vet.

The health and welfare of animals is central to Defra’s work of protecting and improving livestock and controlling and eradicating disease.

The following horse diseases are notifiable – Which means if you suspect signs of these diseases, you must immediately notify your local Animal Health office:

The Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987 makes these diseases compulsorily notifiable: it gives an inspector powers to declare an infected place where disease is suspected; to carry out a veterinary inquiry, prohibits the movement of horses carcases and other things onto or off the premises and requires cleansing and disinfection.

Council Directive 90/426 makes the following horse diseases compulsorily notifiable to the EU: Glanders , Dourine, Equine Encephalomyelitis (of all types, including Japanese Encephalomyelitis and West Nile Fever and Infectious anaemia.

Strategy for the horse industry in England and Wales

The Strategy has been developed by the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC) in partnership with Government, and sets out a vision of where the industry aspires to be within ten years.

Facts and figures

The horse industry’s gross output is worth approximately £4 billion per year, and attracts around 4.3 million riders, and directly or indirectly employs up to a quarter of a million people. It plays an important part in the national and especially rural economies, the social fabric of rural communities, and environmental and land management.

The industry is highly diverse. It includes large-scale commercial activities such as racing and sport horses, the leisure and recreational use of horses, and ancillary activities like farriery, equine medicine, tack and feed supply.


Further information

Contact us

Contact Horse passports and zootechnics team:

Horse Passports Team
Area 5E, 9 Millbank
c/o Nobel House
17 Smith Square


Defra Helpline: 08459 33 55 77

Page published: 28 February 2011

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