Horses could die in passport row

NEW compulsory horse passports could result in ponies being put down, a Suffolk riding school owner claimed today.Under European Commission regulations, passports have to be bought for every horse, pony or donkey in England.

NEW compulsory horse passports could result in ponies being put down, a Suffolk riding school owner claimed today.

Under European Commission regulations, passports have to be bought for every horse, pony or donkey in England.

The regulation aims to stop unsafe veterinary drugs getting into the human food chain, by having the drugs administered written in each horse's passport.

But Ann Withey, who owns Copdock Riding Centre in Wenham Road, Copdock, attacked the scheme, which will see owners paying around £20 for each passport.

The majority of her 17 riding school horses and ponies are more than 10 years old – and those aged 15 years are classed as aged.

Ollie, 29, and Lady, 31, are ponies Mrs Withey has had for years. She says she sees no point in buying them passports because they are not going anywhere.

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She said saying some owners will put to sleep older or retired animals rather than pay for the "crazy" passports.

Mrs Withey said: "My animals' welfare is a top priority and I would not put them down.

"But it is a possibility that some people in the horse world would consider putting older horses or those that are lame to sleep because of the cost involved in getting passports for them.

"It would be more than £20 as you also have to get a vet to draw the diagrams [of the horses].

"The general feeling is that some people won't mind getting passports for horses that are travelling or are competition or race horses.

"What I am objecting to is getting passports for children's ponies or riding school ponies that are never going to go anywhere.

"Human beings don't have passports if they don't travel, so why should horses?

"I would never take my horses to an abattoir so they would never be eaten. So, in my opinion, they don't need passports."

But Wendy Peckham, a spokeswoman for the British Horse Society, said: "The only reason animals should be put down is if the animal's quality of life was impaired.

"If people are going to have horses they should have sufficient funds to pay for them. People have known about the passports for 18 months and I really do not think there is any excuse for people to be complaining now."

She added that the passports would mean stolen horses will not be able to be sold on and a customer buying a horse will be able to find out the horse's exact age and breed.

Owners will have to comply with the European Commission regulation by June 30, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced.

Owners could otherwise face a maximum fine of £5000 or up to three months in prison.

A Defra spokesman said: "We have to comply with European Commission regulations otherwise we would lose the right to use many medicines that are available to vets for the treatment of horses.

"It's right to say that we don't really regard horses as a food source, but when it comes to the end of a horse's life, it will often go to an abattoir, from where it can sometimes be exported to the continent."

N Do you think horse passports are a good idea? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

When does your horse need to show its passport?

When moving in and out of Great Britain

Going to other premises for competition

Moving to other premises for the purposes of veterinary treatment

Moving to the premises of a new keeper

Going to a slaughterhouse for slaughter

Moving for the purpose of sale

Going to new premises for breeding purposes

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