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30. Equines and microchips
Updated 24 February 2021
Compulsory microchipping - equine
30.1 Microchipping of equines has been compulsory in England since 1 October 2018. The Equine Identification (England) Regulations 2018, applies to:
a. equines whose previous microchip ceases to function; or
b. equines arriving in England having been subject to an alternative method of identity verification.
30.2 From 1 October 2020, the microchipping of all equines in England became compulsory; this includes those equines born on or before 30 June 2009. Equines born after 30 June 2009 should already be microchipped as this was mandated by previous legislation.
30.3 Excluded from the compulsory microchipping regulations are equines which are deemed to be wild or semi-wild that are living in certain designated areas (i.e. Dartmoor, Exmoor, the New Forest and Wicken Fen). However, if a wild or semi-wild equine were treated with a veterinary medicinal product, it would require a microchip to be implanted and a passport to be issued within 30 days of treatment.
30.4 Microchipping of equines has been compulsory in Scotland since 28 March 2019. The Equine Animal (Identification) (Scotland) Regulations 2019, applies to:
a. equines whose previous microchip ceases to function; or
b. equines arriving in Scotland having been subject to an alternative method of identity verification.
30.5 From 28 March 2021, the microchipping of all equines in Scotland will become compulsory, this includes those equines born on or before 1 July 2009. Equines born after 30 June 2009 should already be microchipped as this was mandated by previous legislation.
30.6 Microchipping of equines has been compulsory in Wales since 12 February 2019. The Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2019, applies to:
a. equines whose previous microchip ceases to function; or
b. equines arriving in Wales having been subject to an alternative method of identity verification.
30.7 From 12 February 2021, the microchipping of all equines in Wales will become compulsory, this includes those equines born on or before 30 June 2009. Equines born after 30 June 2009 should already be microchipped as this was mandated by previous legislation.
30.8 Excluded from the compulsory microchipping regulations are equines which are deemed to be wild or semi-wild that are living in certain designated areas. This applies to those equines that are identified in the lists kept by the Hill Pony Improvement Societies of Wales or identified in the lists kept by the Cymdeithas Merlod y Carneddau. However, if a wild or semi-wild equine were treated with a veterinary medicinal product, it would require a microchip to be implanted and a passport to be issued within 30 days of treatment.
30.9 Microchipping of equines in Northern Ireland has been compulsory since 29 March 2019. The Equine Identification Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 applies to equines whose previous microchip ceases to function. All equines born after 30 June 2009 should already be microchipped as this was mandated by previous legislation.
General - all UK jurisdictions
30.10 Owners of equines have a legal obligation to have their equine microchipped and to submit the microchip details to a Passport Issuing Organisation. The Passport Issuing Organisation will then submit the passport record, including the microchip details, to the Central Equine Database (www.equineregister.co.uk) or Scottish Equine Database (www.scotequine.com). Whenever there is a change of details, other than medical/vaccination records (for example; of ownership, the owner’s address, gelding, microchip, food chain status, or death), the owner must ensure that the amended details are recorded with the Passport Issuing Organisation, and where there is a change of owner or the animal is deceased, that the passport is returned. If a client refuses to microchip their equine, the veterinary surgeon should do the following:
a. Inform the client of their legal obligation to microchip the equine; and/or
b. Consider reporting the client’s non-compliance to the Local Authority. If done so without client consent this will be considered a breach of client confidentiality, however, this breach will be justifiable on public interest grounds. (See chapter 14 – Client Confidentiality).
30.11 A veterinary surgeon who implants a microchip into an equine must ensure that the microchip number is unique. Failing to do so is a criminal offence. A veterinary surgeon can fulfil this obligation by ensuring:
a. That the microchip is obtained from a reputable source;
b. That the microchip is ISO 11784/5 compliant; and
c. That the microchip number is not already registered to another equine on the UK’s Central Equine Database (or Scottish Equine Database). We recommend using the National Equine Chip Checker hosted at https://www.equineregister.co.uk. If the microchip number is already registered, this chip should not be inserted, and the veterinary surgeon should instead consider reporting the duplication to their local Trading Standards office, or DAERA in Northern Ireland. It is suggested that microchips be checked in the practice before being taken for implantation.
30.12 A veterinary surgeon who suspects that a microchip has been cloned/duplicated may consider reporting this issue (in England a veterinary surgeon should use: firstname.lastname@example.org; in Wales a veterinary surgeon should use: email@example.com). If the report includes client details, and therefore leads to a breach of client confidentiality, this will be considered justifiable on public interest grounds. (See chapter 14 – Client Confidentiality)
30.13 A veterinary surgeon must check on the equine’s passport, prior to treatment, whether the medication to be administered would establish the equine’s status as not intended for human consumption. Failing to do so is a criminal offence, unless the owner or keeper has failed to produce the equine’s passport or smart card when requested.
30.14 If the passport or smart card is not produced, and the veterinary surgeon is unable to determine food chain status, it must be assumed that the equine is intended for human consumption, and therefore only medicines suitable for food producing animals should be prescribed. Where the health or welfare of the equine is at risk and treatment with a medicine that is not suitable for food-producing animals is required the veterinary surgeon should then provide the client with a form identifying the equine, stating the medication administered, and advising the client that they need to exclude the animal from the food chain. An example of such a form can be found in the ‘Related Documents’ box. Further guidance for veterinary surgeons and owners/keepers where no passport has ever been issued or the passport has been lost, can be found within the VMD’s guidance for horse medicines and record keeping requirements.
30.15 Veterinary surgeons should undertake a clinical examination (i.e. scan for a microchip over the area where under normal circumstances a microchip is inserted, and to check for clinical signs that a microchip previously implanted has been surgically removed) before inserting a microchip in order to avoid multiple microchips being implanted, and to avoid mistakes being made in relation to the equine’s food chain status.
Who can implant a microchip?
30.16 A microchip may only be implanted in an equine by a veterinary surgeon.
Microchip Adverse Event Reporting Scheme
30.17 The various regulations on compulsory microchipping require reports to be made whenever there is an adverse reaction to microchipping, migration of a microchip from the site of implanting or the failure of a microchip.
30.18 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should report an adverse reaction to microchipping, or the migration or failure of a microchip to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). Further information about the Microchip Adverse Event Reporting Scheme is available from the VMD’s Pharmacovigilance Unit on 01932 338427 and reports can be submitted online at www.vmd.defra.gov.uk. The VMD closely monitors all reports to identify emerging issues and will feed back any concerns to the chip manufacturer and Microchip Trade Association (MTA).
30.19 In addition to the above, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in Scotland should also note that the Scottish Regulations require reports to be made within 21 days beginning with the day the adverse reaction, migration or failure is identified.
30.20 Because of the importance attached to the accurate identification of animals and the potential for fraud, a microchip must only be removed where this can be clinically justified. This justification should be documented and where required another microchip or alternative method of identification used.
30.21 Removal of a microchip in any other circumstances would be an unnecessary mutilation. While the insertion of a second microchip may be problematic, this in itself does not justify removal of a microchip and an audit trail must be maintained.
Scanning for microchips
30.22 A veterinary surgeon should scan an equine for a microchip and ensure that the microchip number can be reconciled with an equine’s passport or smart card before any treatment is prescribed. If there is no microchip, a veterinary surgeon should check identifying markings on the equine and match these to the description of the equine from the passport.
30.23 Exceptions to the routine scanning of equines may apply when medication is not administered during an equine appointment; or when the equine may have been examined by the veterinary surgeon many times before and the food chain status is already determined.
30.24 An ownership dispute may arise where a client presents an animal with a microchip registered in another person's name, or by someone other than the owner. In equines, this is most likely to occur in the following situations:
a. When a new owner has not updated the details on the passport, or when a keeper of an equine horse presents themselves as the owner.
b. Where an equine is presented by someone with statutory or other appropriate authority having previously been removed under the Animal Welfare Acts. In this case veterinary surgeons should satisfy themselves that the equine has been legitimately removed. (See Supporting Guidance Chapter 11 – Communication and Consent)
30.25 Where there is a new owner that has not updated the details on the passport, practices should ask the owner to contact the vendor in order to obtain authorisation to update the equine’s passport.
30.26 Veterinary surgeons should consider the following information if faced with an ownership dispute:
Seek prior agreement to disclose
30.27 Practices may wish to request express written agreement from clients on registration that if the practice discovers the animal is registered to another person, the personal data of the client and details of the animal and its location will be passed on to the person in whose name the animal is registered and/or the database provider/Passport Issuing Organisation. An exception to this disclosure would be when the client is the keeper of the equine and has the owner’s consent to seek veterinary services on their behalf.
30.28 A written agreement should be obtained through a standalone consent document, not merely included in the practice's standard terms and conditions. The client must be given the opportunity to make a positive indication that they would be happy for their personal data to be passed on in such circumstances. This consent must be freely given, which means it cannot be a condition of registering with the practice. There should be systems and processes in place to keep the consent up to date and veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should properly acknowledge and document any withdrawal of consent.
Seek consent to disclose
30.29 If there is no prior agreement for disclosure between the practice and the client, the veterinary surgeon should first try and obtain the current keeper’s consent to release their personal information (i.e. name/address) to the registered owner and/or database provider/Passport Issuing Organisation. However, the name and details of the registered owner should not be provided to the current keeper (unless the registered owner volunteers them).
30.30 It is likely that consent will be given freely if the registered owner is aware that the animal is in the possession of the current keeper e.g. the current keeper is caring for the animal.
Failure to obtain consent
30.31 If the current keeper refuses to consent to the release of their personal information to the registered owner, the veterinary surgeon should contact the registered owner and/or the database provider/Passport Issuing Organisation and explain that the animal has been presented by someone else. However, the veterinary surgeon should not release the current keeper’s personal information to the registered owner (or any other third party including the database provider) at this stage.
30.32 If the veterinary surgeon makes contact with the registered owner and the registered owner is not concerned that the animal has been presented by another person, then the veterinary surgeon should still not release the current keeper’s personal information to the registered owner or any other third party as the veterinary surgeon would not have a legal basis for this disclosure under the GDPR. Consent will need to be obtained from the registered owner to change the details on the microchip.
30.33 If the veterinary surgeon makes contact with the registered owner and/or the database provider/Passport Issuing Organisation and from the conversation discovers that (i) the animal has been reported as stolen; (ii) the registered owner was not aware that the animal is in someone else’s possession; and/or (iii) the registered owner wants to recover the animal, then the veterinary surgeon may have a legal basis for disclosing the current keeper’s personal information i.e. he/she is certain that such disclosure is “necessary” for the purposes of the registered owner to exercise his/her legal rights, and those interests are not overridden by the interests of the current keeper. If there is any doubt as to a legal basis for such disclosure, it may be preferable not to disclose the data to the registered owner, and instead request that they ask the police to contact the veterinary surgeon for the details of the current keeper.
a. Suspected Theft/Stolen Animal
In the event that the registered owner and/or database provider tells the veterinary surgeon that the animal is stolen, the veterinary surgeon should ask the registered owner and/or database provider to report the theft to the police. If the police then contact the veterinary surgeon, he/she should ask for a formal request for disclosure from the police, setting out their legal basis for requesting this information.
b. Civil/Ownership dispute
In some cases, the animal may not have been reported stolen, but the registered owner still wants to recover the animal. This may be the case where there is a civil/domestic dispute. In these circumstances, the veterinary surgeon should not immediately provide the current keeper’s details to the registered owner. The registered owner or their legal representative should expressly confirm, in writing, the legal basis on which disclosure is permitted under the GDPR. The veterinary surgeon should then assess that request before deciding whether to disclose this information.
30.34 It is recommended that these steps are set out in a policy document, which is displayed at the practice so that the process is clear to clients.