The government has laid down new legislation to have all horses, ponies and donkeys (zebra’s too if you happen to have one), micro-chipped by October 2020.

Yup! All of them!

This really is good news as far as we are concerned and is in response to concern from equine charities like ours and the general public, hoping to address the continuing horse welfare issues in the UK.

Back in 2018 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 Here4Horses team are in complete agreement with this statement. We are confident that it can not only make it easier for equine welfare charities like ours, to carry out our invaluable work but also has the potential to significantly reduce animal neglect and abandonment.

A traceable owner is more likely to be a responsible owner. We would hope!

In conjunction with the now mandatory horse passport, the future for our equine friends looks safer and brighter.

So, if you are lucky enough to own or care for one of these magnificent animals, please see our Q and A section below to discover what you need to do next.

You can also find more information at

Micro-chipping Q&A

It is a tiny device inserted into the upper part of your horses’ neck as a means of identification and is about the size of a grain of rice.

It stores a unique number, in order to identify an individual animal.  Microchips are widely used in many animals, especially dogs, to help trace missing pets.  They don’t have a tracking device to locate missing animals, and will only identify a missing animal when it is found and scanned.

A special scanning device is needed to locate and read the chip.  Vet practices, animal charities and some Local Authorities have scanners in order to check for and read a chip.

The chip must be inserted into the Nuchal Ligament – this is a broad and very strong ligament lying along the crest of the horse’s neck, there to support the head and neck.

It is essential that the chip is inserted into this ligament to prevent it from moving or being expelled from the horse.

Vets need to take care to properly locate the ligament in order to insert the chip correctly – it should not be place into the muscle or fat where it may become dislodged.

It should always be inserted on the nearside (left) of the horses’ neck.

Any microchip must be registered with a database in order to be effective.

A microchip should not be inserted into any animal without subsequent registration. Some vets fail to explain the importance of this step, others are very efficient and will even provide the service for you.

Please remember – an unregistered chip is of no use at all.

Your chip should be registered with either or

It is also important to make sure that contact details are updated – for instance if you move house, change your telephone number or sell the horse. A fee may apply.

Ensuring your details are up to date will significantly increase the chances of you being reunited with your horse should it go missing.


Seriously….not a lot but while it sleeps in your horse’s neck, that unique identification number sits on a database storing your own and your horses details.

This is all very valuable data, needed for tracing a lost or stolen animal or checking its history.

The simple answer is yes.  No domestic or kept equine is exempt from the passport or microchip rule.  We really were serious about Zebra’s too.  Mules, Asses and even those iddy biddy miniature Shetland’s you could fit in your suitcase.

Your vet can arrange this for a fee of around £25 to £30.

If you are not registered with a Vet, we strongly advise that you do so – your horse or pony’s welfare could potentially be compromised without this in place.

You will need to factor in a visit fee too, if the vet is coming to you.

You will need your horses’ passport in order for your vet to correctly identify your horse and to record the microchip number on the passport.

Your vet will place one of the barcode stickers that accompany the chip, into the passport, and sign and stamp to confirm it.

Once complete, you must then inform the relevant Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) so that the microchip number can be added to your horse’s record on their database. The PIO address should appear on the passport.

You should then be able to go online to The Equine Register® to see whether your PIO has made the amendment.

A full list of approved PIOs is available from

No! This must be done by a fully qualified veterinary surgeon to ensure correct placement and protect the horse from injury.

Micro-chipping is a quick and simple procedure, but it does involve a fairly large needle.

Some horses hardly notice it at all, others will jump away in response.

Any discomfort should only last a few seconds, if done correctly.

There should be no lasting after effects or complications but if you think your horse has had a reaction to a microchip, contact your vet straight away.

Chances are, if it does cause a small local infection, the chip will be expelled like a spelk (or splinter if you’re not from the North) and a new chip will need to be inserted.  Always seek advice from your vet if you have any concerns.

No, it is not.  The only proof of ownership is an actual receipt of purchase, which should contain clear details of the horse and be signed and dated by the vendor and purchaser.

The primary carer of the horse, (the person who looks after it at their home or on a yard), may well be the legal owner but in terms of passport law, is always referred to as the ‘keeper’.

The horses’ microchip must be registered to the ‘keeper’, even though the keeper may not always be the owner of the horse.

Any reference to the ‘keeper’, means that this person has legal responsibility for the horse and can be held responsible if the horse falls foul of any law, including straying or causing injury – but just to be clear, it does not prove legal ownership.

If you re-home a rescue horse, the chip details must be registered in your name. Many Rescue Centres will do this automatically when you rehome the horse, but it is wise to check.

England: all equines to be microchipped by 1st October 2020.

Wales: all equines to be microchipped by 12th February 2021.

Scotland: all equines to be microchipped by 28th March 2021.

Links to the relevant legislation below:


Northern Ireland:




Good question, as it may not be indefinitely.  Some chips are only guaranteed for 10 years. Some have a limited number of reads when scanned so avoid overdoing it. Some companies offer longer life chips.

Your horse or pony could be with you for over 20 years. Your vet or microchip issuer can advise on microchip brand, lifespan and guarantees.

The Equine Register® is a company contracted to provide and manage the Central Equine Database (CED) and National ChipChecker for Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs).

There are 81 UK Passport Issuing Organisations (PIO) and Equine Register® manages their data on the Central Equine Database, which houses over 1.2 Million equine records. To check a microchip or to access the Central Equine Database, visit:

If horse owners do not microchip their horses by October 1st 2020 they could face sanctions from their local authority including a compliance notice and possibly a fine of up to £200.

It is illegal to own an equine without having a passport for it. Non-compliance with this may result in a fine of up to £5000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 3 months.

All foals must be microchipped in order to receive a passport.  This must be done before the foal is 6 months old or by 31st December in the year it is born, whichever is later.

If you want to sell or move your foal without its dam (mother) earlier, then you need to have your foal micro-chipped and passported first.

Some Breed Societies issue their own microchips, so you will need to organise this and the appropriate passport application form, before arranging a visit from your vet.

You must return your horses passport to the passport issuing office within 30 days of your horse’s death.

Once the chip is in place, a scan will only be required if your horse needs identifying for some reason. Your vet will be able to scan for you any time they visit, it is not necessary for regular horse owners to purchase a scanner of their own.

You can always seek advice from the PIO to which your horse is registered. If you don’t have a passport for your horse, you are committing an offence.

Choose an appropriate PIO for your horse, if it has proven blood lines then you need to apply to the breed society.  There is a list on Defra’s website, talk to your vet about how to proceed with the documentation.  If you’re still stuck then contact us with your query and we will do our best to assist.

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