Fears for our horses’ health over lack of border checks
THE lack of border checks on equine documents is causing a potential health and security risk, experts have warned.
Under EU law, although horses must have appropriate paperwork when moving between member states, there is no legal requirement for it to be checked.
International Iranian dressage rider Litta Soheila Sohi, who is based with Olympian Spencer Wilton and travels abroad regularly, was surprised that neither her paperwork nor the interior of her lorry was checked on either leg of a recent trip.
“I go abroad about once a month and it’s not the first time they haven’t checked, but it’s the first time no one’s asked both ways,” she told H&H.
Litta was taking her horse Air FK to compete at Saumur CDI3* on 20 September on this most recent trip, and she only realised when she got to France that she had not brought his passport.
She paid £160 for a courier to take it from the UK to the event, where it was checked, but she did not need it on either journey.
“Every time I go abroad, I pay for my export papers, the different certificates you need to take a horse outside the UK, I go with all these tons of paperwork,” she said. “The only thing [the border official] wanted to know was whether I had a working fan.
“I only had one horse in the lorry but I could have had stolen grand prix horses too — I could have taken [Spencer’s Rio ride] Supernova II and just never come back. I thought it was incredible.”
Litta said the incident flagged health and security concerns.
“They didn’t even look in the lorry,” she said. “It’s 26 tonnes; I could have had 200 immigrants in the back.
“You do so much to take horses abroad, pay for all the papers, and then think: ‘What was all that about, no one even looked at it’. With all the terror attacks, you’d think they would be more careful, not to mention the fact they didn’t even check to see if it was a horse who’d had his vaccinations.”
WORLD Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said it was “not surprising” no checks were made on Litta’s lorry as “a grand prix dressage rider would likely be compliant with the legislation”.
“What is concerning however, is the lack of checks overall and this is something on which we have been campaigning for a number of years,” he said.
“There needs to be a system of intelligence-led checks at our ports to protect the health and welfare of these horses and the UK horse population.”
Jon Pycock, president of the British Equestrian Veterinary Association, agreed with the others’ concerns but believes there is potential to improve the system.
“Border checks on paperwork are not mandated and without intelligence-led health checks this provides a potential health risk and is cause for concern,” he told H&H. “But there is the potential to enhance biosecurity checks at UK ports following Brexit.”
A Defra spokesman said: “Under the Tripartite Agreement (TPA) certain horses can move freely between the UK and France, including horses registered with the FEI. Horses competing at FEI events must be of a vaccination standard set by the FEI.
“Horses not qualifying under TPA must be accompanied by a health certificate and inspected by a vet before departure. Random checks on these animals coming into the UK are undertaken by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.”
‘I could have stolen Supernova II
and just never come back’
Horses travelling across borders have to have passports but these do not have to be checked