The intent of having a horse passport system is a good one: ideally, each horse should be matched to a passport that details the important information regarding that horse. This, in theory, would prevent stolen horses from being sold.
However, this system can in practice be chaotic and is subject to abuse. It is an offence to buy a horse without a passport and you should always make sure to acquire the passport for your horse before buying it.
Sometimes, a horse can be sold with a passport that is obviously fake and you bought the horse without knowing anything about horse passports, and accepted the one issued as valid.
Other times, you may find you’ve bought a horse with a passport that seems legit, but on closer inspection you start doubting it’s validity.
Tracking down the issuing authority can also be a nightmare, as PIOs can have their issuing authority revoked.
Resources that can help you check your passport and horse’s identity
Validating where your horse came from, who she really belongs to and whether or not the information in the passport you have can be a nightmare.
If you suspect that you’ve got a fake passport, the best advice I can come up with is to contact your local PIO and tell them of your passport.
They’ll most likely ask you to send in the passport and they’ll validate your ownership and whatever information exists in the passport currently.
Even if you have bought a horse with a fake passport, contact your local PIO and have your current passport and owner information verified, because you are liable to pay a £5000 fine if you don’t update ownership details within 30 days.
Your horse will have been issued a ‘Unique Equine Life Number’ (UELN) by the PIO that first identified the horse. The UELN is not the same as the microchip number.
The first three digits of the UELN represent a country code, the next three digits relate to the PIO and the last nine digits are issued by the PIO to identify each equine registered with it.
This may give you some clue as to which PIO first identified the horse and issued a passport. You may even find some help (but don’t get your hopes up) on the UELN website here.
Horses without passports
Horses that have been purchased from outside of the UK and EU, will need sufficient documents to enter. Then, within 30 days of entry, you must update the information of ownership and apply for a passport from your local PIO, as per usual.
Any horse born in the UK and EU, needs to be microchipped and passported within the first 12 months after birth and should come with both.
Figuring out if the passport you’re holding is real or fake can be easy or it can be impossible.
Even when a passport is real, there can be mistakes and the information in the passport mismatched with the horse itself.
The system doesn’t really help, either, if you fall outside set parameters and it can be difficult to find out the truth.
The best you can do, is to comply with regulations and keep your own information up to date. If you’ve ended up with a dodgy passport, the best you can do is get it validated with the information as it is currently.
If people before you have made a mess of it, intentionally or unintentionally, the horse is now yours and so it falls on you to clean up the mess, so to speak.
When you do post your passport (the PIO will ask you to send it over to be amended) to be stamped, validated or updated, use recorded or registered post and take photocopies or photos of the original documents before you send them off.