Horse identification and control
If you own or keep a horse, you must follow certain rules on microchipping, licencing and identification.
This applies to all members of the horse family, including ponies, donkeys and crosses, officially known as equine animals.
By law, your horse must have the following identification:
- An equine (horse) passport, which is valid for the horse’s lifetime
- A microchip implant, which links the animal to the passport
- A Unique Equine Life Number (UELN)
You must also have a horse license if you are keeping your horse in a control area. A control area is a place that is designated by your local authority.
How do I get a horse passport in Ireland?
You can buy a horse passport from an approved Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO). The passport is valid for the lifetime of the horse.
The passport shows the identity of the horse, the microchip number (if it has one) and the Unique Equine Life Number (UELN).
The passport will also say if the horse is to be farmed for human consumption. This is because the horse cannot be given certain types of medication if it will be farmed for horsemeat.
When to get a horse passport
If your horse was born in the Republic of Ireland, you must get a passport for it:
- Before 31 December in the year it is born, or
- Within 6 months of the day it is born, whichever is later
For example a horse born in May, must have a passport by 31 December of that year. A horse born in October must have a passport within 6 months, so this means by April of the following year.
If you are taking a foal from the holding where it was born, it must first be microchipped (see below) and have a passport. But if the foal is under 12 months old, is not yet weaned and is accompanied by its mother (dam or foster mare), you do not need a passport for it.
If you sell or give your horse to someone else, you must give the new owner the passport and they must register the change of ownership with the appropriate PIO.
When your horse dies, you should return its passport to the PIO so that its details on the database can be updated. The slaughter plant or knackery will take the passport and send it back to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Can I bring my horse to another country
If you are importing a horse into Ireland from another EU country, it will need a valid passport.
If you are importing a horse into Ireland from outside the EU, it will need a passport that is accepted by the EU.
If you are importing the horse from any other country and it does not have a passport, you must apply to the a PIO for a passport within 30 days after arriving in Ireland.
You must bring the horses’ passport whenever the horse is being moved, inside Ireland or to another state.
You can read more about what health import requirements and veterinary certification you may need when moving country with your horse.
Do horses have to be microchipped in Ireland?
Your horse must be microchipped if it was issued a passport after 1 July 2009. The microchip is a tiny computer chip that a vet implants under the skin of the horse to identify it.
Only a vet must implant the microchip. The information on the microchip links the horse to the horse’s passport and to the details registered on the PIO’s database. Your vet will charge a fee for implanting the microchip into your horse.
Do I need a license to own a horse in Ireland?
You must have a horse license if your horse is kept in a control area. A control area is a place that is designated by a local authority in their Control of Horses Byelaws.
When the local authority is making bye-laws, it must give details of the proposed control areas in local newspapers. Contact your local authority to get more information on control areas for horses.
Your local authority keeps a register of all licences issued.
How to get a horse licence
To apply for a horse licence you need to bring the following to your local authority:
- A completed application form available from your local authority
- The fee
Your local authority will want to check that you meet the standards to keep a horse. For example that your horse will be properly cared for and stabled.
If a person under 16 owns a horse, the head of the household in which they live is considered to be the owner, as horses may not be sold to anyone under 16 years of age.
Can I ride a horse on a public road in Ireland?
You can ride your horse on a public road, but you must bring your horse licence if you are riding in a designated control area. You must follow the rules of the road for horse riding. You can find information about horse safety on the road, and a booklet on Horse Road Safety on Public Roads (pdf) from the Road Safety Authority.
If you take your horse into a public place, you must make sure that it is under control and you are not breaking any laws. This includes bye-laws from your local authority.
Inspection and offences
You must allow the Gardaí to inspect your horse if they ask to do so. You can be asked to show evidence of your horse licence. The Gardaí have extensive powers of search and arrest if they suspect cruelty to horses.
You can be arrested without a warrant for most of these offences. If you are found guilty, you can be fined or put in prison (or both) and you can be banned from keeping a horse for some time. The court may take the horse and dispose of it. Read about the laws on horses in the Control of Horses 1996 Act.
Stray or abandoned horses
If your horse has been found wandering 3 times within a 12-month period, it can be seized and you will not get it back.
Check with your local authority for details of its charges for horse licences and for reclaiming a seized horse.
Teagasc have a list of laws relating to horse ownership.