Farm Ireland

Monday 26 February 2018

Fines introduced to enforce our new equine regulations

Note of caution for all involved in the equine industry as clamp-down on new EU rules begins

Aisling Meehan

Keepers of horses or other equines could face fines of up to €5,000 if they fail to comply with new Irish equine regulations which have recently been signed into law.

Irish legislation, which was introduced in July to give force to EU regulations from 2009, has specified the fines which can be imposed on those found to be in breach of these regulations.

While all keepers of equidae (horses, donkeys, etc), passport issuing bodies and vets were obliged to comply with the provisions of European legislation from 2009, they could not be prosecuted for not doing so because the fines were not prescribed. However, this has now changed.

The legislation also has broadened the definition of what is considered the "keeper" of a horse or other equine to include anyone in possession or charged with the keeping of an equine animal.

With around 3,000 farmers keeping horses to qualify for stocking density requirements for farm payments, and many more keeping horses for leisure and breeding purposes, it is essential that they are familiar with the details of the regulations.

Under the EU regulation, a 'keeper' has been defined as any person having ownership of or in the possession of, or charged with keeping, an equine animal. It doesn't matter whether this is for financial reward or on a permanent or temporary basis. It also includes transportation at markets, competitions, races and cultural events.

This definition would appear to encompass a broad range of people from farmers who let neighbours' horses graze after-grass to lorry drivers and members of show committees.

The European legislation set out an improved system of identification for equidae to ensure all foals born from July 1, 2009 (and also older animals if they had not been previously identified prior to July 1, 2009) have to be identified by their individual passports, by a microchip and by a unique equine life number (UELN).

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The regulations specify that the number of the microchip and the UELN have also to be entered on the equine's passport.

The 2011 Regulations make it an offence for anyone to have in his or her possession an equine animal unless it is identified before December 31 of the year of its birth or within six months following the date of birth, whichever date occurs later.

It is also deemed an offence for any person to move or transport an equine animal without its identification document (subject to specified limited derogations).

Fines of up to €5,000 can be imposed on individuals, groups or companies found to be in breach of the legislation.

The regulations lay down specific requirements for registered equidae imported from countries outside of the EU and have specific provisions for equine semen collection, storage and import of semen from an equine animal from a country outside the EU.

Further rules are laid down in relation to equine ova and embryo collection, production and importation.

Of particular interest to horse owners are rules regarding animal remedies for equines. They state that a person who prescribes or administers an animal remedy without a maximum residue limit (MRL) to a horse can only do so when the horse has been permanently excluded from the food chain and the relevant part of the passport is endorsed accordingly (ie, the medicine is written into and stamped on the horse's passport by the vet).

In the case of administration of an "essential substance", a withdrawal period of at least six months applies (the horse must be excluded from the food chain for at least six months) and this is achieved by endorsing the relevant part of the passport at the time the medicine is prescribed or administered.

If a horse is treated with an authorised product with an MRL, there is no requirement in legislation to record the treatment in the passport.

The 2011 Regulations require non-discrimination in all competitions for equine animals. However, the Minister may grant an exemption allowing for discrimination in the following instances:

•Where the competition is reserved for equine animals entered or registered in a studbook for the purpose of permitting the improvement of a breed;

•A regional competition for the purpose of selecting equine animals;

•A traditional or historic event.

Anyone seeking an exemption is now required to seek it at least 14 days in advance of the competition, instead of "in good time" as the old regulation required.

In addition, the new regulations may require the person who is granted an exemption to reserve a maximum of 20pc of the prize money or profits for each competition for the safeguard, development and improvement of breeding, with the Minister being responsible for publishing the criteria for the distribution of these reserved funds.

The 2011 Regulations repeat many of the old Irish ones regarding the appointment and functions of authorised officers, but they also go further by broadening the circumstances in which an authorised officer is entitled to enter a premises and examine and seize items.

The regulations introduce a new provision whereby an authorised officer may, by notice in writing, require the owner or keeper to identify an equine animal. If a person fails to identify the animal, the authorised officer may seize, destroy, or cause to be destroyed an equine animal and the Minister may seek to recover the costs from that person.

Speaking at the Dublin Horse Show recently, Minister Coveney said he would be shortly introducing further statutory powers which will require all keepers of horses in the country to register their location with the Department and to keep records that would enable tracing of horses in the event of a disease outbreak.

Given that Deputy Brendan Smith, who was the then Minister for Agriculture, stated during a Dail Debate on June 30, 2009 that the Statutory Instrument which has just been published was being finalised in his Department at the time, here's hoping it does not take a further two years for the statutory powers Minister Coveney recently spoke about to be signed into law.

Disclaimer: While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, Aisling Meehan, solicitor and tax consultant, does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. Tel: 061 368412.

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