Law will help in the identification of lost or stolen animals.
Equine owners are being reminded that they have until the 1 October 2020 to get their animals microchipped, or face a fine of up to £200.
The new legislation was introduced in June in a bid to tackle horse theft, improve equine traceability and improve animal welfare. Besides making sure their horses, ponies and donkeys are microchipped owners will also be required to keep their animals' details up to date on the Central Equine Database.
Compulsory microchipping will also make it easier for lost or stolen horses to be reunited with their owners. In 2019, the RSPCA received more than 21,000 reports to its cruelty hotline and took 875 horses into care.
Around 70 per cent of these horses did not have a microchip, making it difficult for the organisation to trace owners and to hold anyone responsible for the cruelty the animals had faced.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss said: “As we have seen with cats and dogs, mandatory microchipping is a hugely important step forward in the speedy identification of abandoned or stolen animals.
“Microchipping will not only help the police and local authorities but also support the UK’s efforts to improve traceability and ensure we have better control over any disease outbreaks. This new legislation will also ensure that irresponsible owners are rightly held accountable for any low standards of welfare.”
The Central Equine Database will enable Local Authorities and Police to track down the owners of lost and abandoned horses, helping to improve standards of animal welfare and preventing horse theft. The database can be accessed online via the Digital Stable and holds information on all horses in England (as well as other parts of the UK).
RSPCA equine expert Dr Mark Kennedy said: “We’re delighted that it will soon be compulsory for horses of all ages in England to be microchipped, linking each horse directly to an owner. We believe this will go some way towards helping to identify irresponsible owners who abandon or neglect their horses; as well as helping to reunite owners with missing or stolen equines.
“All too frequently our officers encounter abandoned and neglected horses who are often sick, dying or even dead. Equine welfare charities collectively estimate there are 7,000 horses at risk of poor welfare in England and Wales alone and, with the economic fallout of Covid-19, we’re extremely concerned that many more will fall into situations of neglect, abandonment and suffering this winter.”