Warning to horse owners

HORSE owners are today being warned they could face heavy fines if their animals do not have passports by the end of the month. Suffolk County Council's trading standards officers are reminding owners not to leave it too late before the new regulations come into force in February 2005.

HORSE owners are today being warned they could face heavy fines if their animals do not have passports by the end of the month.

Suffolk County Council's trading standards officers are reminding owners not to leave it too late before the new regulations come into force in February 2005.

Horse passports are being introduced to ensure that horses, which have been treated with certain medications in their lifetime, do not enter the food chain, either in the UK or through export.

Horses, which do not have a passport, will be subject to strict movement restrictions and owners who fail to comply with the new regulations can be fined up to £5,000.


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The council's portfolio holder for public protection, Peter Monk, said: "Suffolk is renowned for its horse breeding and racing heritage and we want to ensure that all horse owners are aware of these new changes coming in.

"Horse passports may sound like an unusual idea, but they are there to protect our horses as well as consumers.

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"The documentation will accurately record medication given to a horse during its life and protects consumers from chemical contamination in their food after its death."

The passports feature a 'silhouette' of each animal and carry details of the animal's breed, colouring and distinguishing features.

They also include a description of the unique pattern of whorls in the horse's coat, which is almost as individual as a human fingerprint.

The passport will have to contain an on-going record of the specified medications given to the horse for the rest of its life.

The scheme will reduce the risk of established veterinary medicines being banned.

Mr Monk added: "Although eating horsemeat isn't commonplace in the UK, it is in other parts of Europe. The passport scheme is a way to ensure that animals treated with some powerful medications don't end up in the food chain to be unknowingly consumed by people."

n Horse owners can contact the trading standards advice line on 01473 584358 for further information. Anyone wanting more details should check out the guidance leaflet produced by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to help owners through the new laws. For more information visit www.defra.gov.uk.

What do you think of the horse passport scheme? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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