KERRY TD Michael Healy-Rae (Ind) raised a Dail question to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, asking if there will be a tightening of legislation for the registration and tracking of horses and ponies.

The issue was highlighted by the Kerry TD after the recent case of Kerry breeder’s Noel Lane stolen ‘dead’ pony hit the headlines nationwide. It emerged in the Minister’s answer that the onus for transfer of equine ownership to the relevant passport issuing body clearly lies with the new owner(s) of the horse or pony in question.

Noel Lane pointed out to The Irish Field: “This is a real weakness in the current system we have, the fact is that no signature is required from the seller on the change of ownership form. So you could put your animal into a stud farm or with a trainer along with the book (passport) as required by law. There is no signature required so that person can, if they had a mind to, just fill out a change of ownership and then they have your horse or pony, plus the book, and you’ll have nothing. This area needs to be tightened up and it can be done simply.

“The passport authorities should have a double-check system in place, the signature of the old owner and the new owner should be required to change the ownership or a horse or pony. Or the passport authorities could also ring the owner and alert them that they have a change of ownership in front of them for their animal. The good people who are doing the right thing are sending out their equine with the book as required but it’s those people who will be at a loss if things go wrong,” said Mr Lane.

In response to Healy-Rae’s question, Minister McConalogue stated that the main function of an animal identification and traceability system is to support the management of animal health and food safety challenges.

“Animal identification systems in Ireland establish the location of animals, and the keeper responsible for the care of the animals. These systems are not concerned with the actual or beneficial ownership of animals,” said Minister McConalogue.

“My Department’s Animal Identification and Movements (AIM) database encompasses the central equine database and records the required identification and movement data of bovines, ovines, caprines, porcines and equines, as determined by the relevant EU legislation.

“The Animal Health Law has introduced a requirement to record the premises where equines are habitually kept. In this regard, and in keeping with my ongoing commitment to review and enhance the equine identification and traceability system, my Department undertook the first annual equine census in November 2021.

“The data returned in this context is currently being compiled and will be used to establish equine herd profiles for equine keepers, for the first time linking equines to the premises where they habitually reside. Further development of AIM is planned to provide equine keepers with a facility to update their own equine herd profile directly as equines move in and out of their premises.”

Ownership transfer onus

Minister McConalogue continued: “S.I. 201 of 2016 was introduced to enhance the traceability of equines as they move through the life cycle. This requires that, where the ownership of an equine is transferred, the person to whom ownership transfers must provide the new ownership details to the relevant approved equine Passport Issuing Organisation.

“The PIOS update this information on my Department’s central equine database. It is expected that the formal linking of equines to their keepers via the annual census and the ongoing updating of habitual residence of equines on AIM will increase compliance with S.I. 201 of 2016.”