Defra has announced that the law which requires horses born since July 2009 to be microchipped is being extended to include all horses, ponies and donkeys, regardless of their age.

From October 2020 it will be mandatory for all owners to microchip their horses, ponies and donkeys, or face a fine of up to £200. The new Central Equine Database will then allow local authorities and police to track down the owners of dumped horses and make sure they are punished. It will also mean lost or stolen horses will be reunited with their owners more easily.

Lord Gardiner, Animal Welfare Minister, said: "The government shares the British public’s high regard for animal welfare and it is completely unacceptable that hundreds of horses and ponies are left abandoned every year by irresponsible owners.

"That is why we have today laid new regulations in Parliament requiring horses to be microchipped. This will bolster the ability of local authorities and police to identify abandoned animals, ensuring these beautiful creatures receive the care they deserve and that those who mistreat them will face the consequences."

The BVA has welcomed the move as an important step forward for horse welfare and the integrity of the UK food chain.

British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz said: "We welcome this announcement to extend compulsory microchipping and believe that the measures represent an important step forward for horse welfare and the integrity of the UK food chain. The one-off cost of microchipping a horse is minimal while the animal welfare benefits in terms of being able to identify lost, stolen, abandoned or fly grazing horses, and identify horses in the face of disease outbreak, as well as the benefits to the integrity of food chain safety, are enormous. 

"Universal microchipping of domesticated horses ensures that the legislation has value, the cost of implementing the new Central  Equine Database (CED) is not wasted, and that food safety is protected. Together these measures will protect horses, ponies and donkeys from irresponsible owners, help loving owners to be reunited with their animals and keep the food chain free from potentially contaminated horse meat."

The regulations for the database were laid in Parliament today and, subject to parliamentary approval, will come into force on 1 October 2018.

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