Horse grazing with foal in a field

Microchipping and passporting your horse

What is a microchip?

A pet microchip is a tiny computer chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice. It contains a unique code that matches up to your pet’s details.

Microchipping a horse is a quick and simple procedure. The chip is inserted, using a needle in the back of the neck so it doesn’t move - it takes seconds.

Horses can be checked for a microchip using a handheld electronic device, called a scanner. When this is waved over the horse’s neck, the scanner will recognise the unique information held inside the chip.

What is a horse passport?

A passport is a compulsory measure and is a small booklet or smart card that identifies your horse, pony or donkey by its height and species and holds your information and consent as to whether they can be used for human food when they die.

Your pet’s passport always needs to be with your animal and is required when a vet treats them and when you want to hand over ownership to someone else. There’s an unlimited fine if you can’t show a valid horse passport.

The passport issuing organisation (PIO) need to be contacted if there are any changes with the passport. They must be contacted within 30 days to notify them of:

  • any change in ownership
  • a horse’s death

When your horse passes away, their passport needs to be returned to the PIO that issued it, who will then update the records.

Your PIO needs to be told when you microchip your horse so that both are linked.

Note: It’s really important that horses that have been given drugs that aren’t fit for human consumption, such as Bute for pain relief, are signed out of the human food chain on their passport.

What is the central equine database?

The central equine database (CED) is a database that holds all of the information on your horse. This includes your information as the keeper, your horse’s passport and which PIO it is registered with, as well as the microchip details.

This database provides a digital stable service which allows you to check your horse’s data is up to date, report your horse as missing or stolen, set status’ and alerts on the national chip checker and make sure that any horses that are for sale are for sale legally.

Why should I get my horse microchipped?

By October 2020 it will be a legal requirement for all horses, ponies and donkeys to be microchipped and registered.

A microchip is a permanent form of identification. As long as the details are kept up to date, you can always be contacted if your horse goes missing.

Where can I get my horse microchipped and how much will it cost?

You will need to get your horse microchipped by a vet which will cost about £25 to £30.

Will microchipping hurt my horse?

Microchipping is a quick procedure, but it does involve a needle so is likely to be uncomfortable for your horse for a few seconds, much like when they have their vaccinations.

If you think your horse has had a reaction to a microchip, contact your vet straight away.

What’s the law on horse microchipping?

By October 2020, all horses, ponies and donkeys in England, Scotland and Wales must be microchipped.

As of that date, owners of horses must have registered their pet’s microchip details with their passport issuing organisation (PIO) with details stored on the central equine database (CED). 

If your horse is already microchipped, be sure to let your PIO know. You can check to see if your passport and microchip are linked by heading to equineregister.co.uk and typing in your horse’s microchip details. 

If they’re linked, your horse’s details will come up and it will tell you which PIO they’re registered with. If the PIO doesn’t show up, it could mean that your microchip isn’t registered with your passport, so you’ll need to get in touch with your PIO and let them know.

The CED logs all domesticated horses, ponies and donkeys, allowing the police and local authorities to reunite lost or stolen horses with their owners more easily and trace the details of abandoned horses to help improve equine welfare in the UK. 

On a more practical level, this also makes it easier to rehome horses and hand over ownership. The CED will also allow owners to flag their horse as missing or stolen. 

Horse owners are also required to keep their pet’s details up to date with the database under the new law.

Owners who do not get their horse microchipped, passported and on the CED could face a fine of up to £200.

If you rehome your horse to someone else, you must give the new owner the correct microchip registration paperwork and passport so they can contact the database and register as the horse’s new owner.

A new owner can enter a horse’s microchip number into the CED which then allows them to check that the passport is registered to the horse. The new owner then has 30 days to notify the PIO of their new details.

Will my horse be microchipped before I take them home?

Horses must be microchipped before they go to their new homes under the new law that officially comes into effect in October 2020. 

The breeder should be the first registered keeper of the horse. Breeders should also pass on correct microchip and passport paperwork to the new owner when the horse goes home. 

If a breeder has not microchipped and registered the horse before you take them home, and cannot give you evidence to show the reason for the delay, walk away.

Whenever you buy or rescue a horse, you should ask your vet to scan them on your first visit to make sure that the chip corresponds with the paperwork you’ve been given.  Errors can and do happen easily, so always make sure the chip and paperwork match.

Is my horse’s microchip proof of ownership?

No, the person who primarily cares for the horse and keeps them in their home is called a ‘keeper’, not an ‘owner’.

The horse’s microchip must be registered to the ‘keeper’, who may not always be the owner.

Some rescue organisations used to keep chips registered in the name of the rescue instead of the owner. If you rehome a rescue horse, their chip details must be registered in your name. Many rescues will do this automatically when you rehome the horse, but always check.

This means this person has legal responsibility for their horse and can be held responsible if the horse falls foul of any law, including straying or causing injury, but it does not prove legal ownership.

How do I check if my horse’s microchip details are up to date?

When you get your horse microchipped, some vet practices will register the chip for you, however some don’t. So, the best thing to do is to check on www.check-a-chip.co.uk and type in the microchip number. This will tell you which database the chip is registered with.

Owners will then need to contact the correct database to update any details, which sometimes incurs a small cost.

How do I change my horse’s microchip details?

If you move and have a change of address or name, don’t forget to update your horse’s details too. 

To do this, get in touch with the microchip and passport database that holds your horse’s details. Depending on which database your horse is registered with, you might be able to do this over the phone or online, or you may have to do so by post.

The cost of actually getting your horse microchipped covers only the implantation of the chip itself; it doesn’t cover the cost of changing your pet’s details in the future.

Pet microchip databases charge an admin fee to change and update your horses’ details. Some will charge you each time you want to change your details, and others charge an upfront fee that covers all changes for the whole of your horse’s life. Check with your database to find out how they are administered.

If you don’t keep your details up to date, the chances of you being reunited with your horse if they go missing significantly decreases. Don’t run the risk of never seeing your horse again.

— Page last updated 10/09/2019

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