Livestock identification and traceability: guidance

How we identify animals and how they are tracked when they are moved.


From 1 January 2021 there will be some changes to the requirements around the export of livestock from Scotland to the European Union (EU) and movements to Northern Ireland (NI). Whilst the below export requirements for movements to the EU will not change, requirements for exports from Great Britain (GB) to NI are subject to ongoing negotiations. As currently written, the Northern Ireland Protocol will require movements of livestock from GB to NI to be treated as if moving livestock to a Member State from 1 January 2021. Read  the guidance about livestock identification export requirements post EU exit.

All horses, ponies and donkeys must have a horse passport. In Scotland, it is the responsibility of the keeper to apply for a horse passport. In most cases, the keeper is likely to be the owner.

The passport helps to:

  • make sure horses treated with certain medicines do not end up as food for human consumption
  • prevent the sale of a stolen horse, pony or donkey, as the passport will prove its identity

Microchipping became compulsory on 1 July 2009 and aids accurate identification as it provides a permanent link between the horse and its passport. Microchipping will also help recover and identify stolen and abandoned horses, as well as assist with welfare cases.

From 28 March 2021 it will become a legal requirement for all horses to be inserted with a transponder by a vet who is a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

Horse passports 

Horse passports contain details about your horse, including:

  • its unique life number (UELN)
  • its microchip code number
  • its age
  • its breed/type
  • all the vaccinations it has been given and any medicine that would affect its food chain status

A horse passport is not an ownership document. It is an identification document which records the identity of a horse and certain veterinary medicines administered to it.

A valid passport should remain with the animal at all times, and in particular, should accompany the horse when it is moved for the purposes of competition or breeding, out of Scotland, on to the premises of a new keeper or for the purposes of receiving veterinary treatment. 

ScotEquine card

Within Scotland the movement or transport of equidae is permitted when accompanied by a ScotEquine card.  The ScotEquine card does not replace a passport, it is a robust ID card (containing statutory information) which can accompany a horse when it is being transported as an alternative to the paper passport.

A horse cannot be moved to slaughter with a ScotEquine card, it must be accompanied by its passport.  A horse cannot be bought or sold with only a ScotEquine card.

Without a passport or ScotEquine card, horses cannot:

  • be moved for the purpose of being entered in a competition
  • be moved for the purpose of being ridden away from the main holding unless the passport or smartcard can be produced without undue delay
  • be permanently moved from the holding of birth 

Without a passport, horses cannot:

  • be moved to the premises of a new keeper
  • be sold or have ownership transferred
  • be sent to slaughter for human consumption
  • be moved out of Scotland
  • be moved for the purpose of being used for breeding

Slaughter for human consumption

Horse passports issued from 1 January 2016 can be declared as ‘not intended’ for slaughter for human consumption in Section II Part II of its passport.

Horse passports issued prior to 1 July 2009 can be declared as 'intended' or 'not intended' for slaughter for human consumption in Section IX Part II of its passport.

Your vet must record in the passport, any medication or injections your horse is given as this affects what happens to the horse when it dies.

Passport issuing organisations

You can get an application form for a horse passport from an authorised passport issuing organisation (PIO). The passport will not be valid if it is issued by an unauthorised organisation.

All PIOs must meet a set of minimum operating standards which are detailed in this guide: Horse passports: operating standards for issuing organisations

If you are based outside Scotland and are applying for a horse passport from a Scottish PIO then they must receive your application no later than 30 days prior to the deadline identification date. The identification deadline date is the later of either the 31 December in the calendar year of the equine animal's birth, or by the end of the month that is 6 months following the date of its birth.

See the table explaining the differing application and identification deadlines

Selling or buying a horse, pony or donkey

If you sell your animal, give the passport to the new owner - if you do not, you could be prosecuted. If you buy a horse, pony or donkey, you must let the PIO know you are the new owner within 30 days. If someone tries to sell you a horse, pony or donkey without a passport, contact your local Trading Standards office.

Importing or exporting a horse, pony or donkey

If you import a horse, pony or donkey from a European Union (EU) country, it needs a valid passport issued by an authorised PIO in the EU and must be registered with a UK appropriate PIO within 30 days.

Your horse passport must be available for inspection at all times.

Death of a horse

Upon the death of your horse you must return the passport to the issuing body within 30 days. They are required by law to invalidate the passport (and, if a microchip was implanted, the microchip number). You may however request that the issuing body return it once they have finished with it.

If your horse is slaughtered at an abattoir, it is the responsibility of the abattoir to return the passport to the issuing body within 30 working days. The horse can only be slaughtered if it is accompanied by a valid passport and Section II Part II, or Section II Part IX in the case of animals issued with a passport before 1 January 2016, shows it is intended for human consumption.

Apply to become a passport issuing organisation (PIO)

There are two types of organisation who can apply to become a PIO, these are:

  • the organisation or association officially approved or recognised by the Scottish Government which manages the stud book for that breed of animal (Recognised Breed Organisation)
  • an organisation with its headquarters in Scotland which manages horses for competition or racing

To apply to become a PIO, please request an application pack from the Scottish Government. To do this you can email your request to:

Alternatively you can post your request to:

Scottish Government
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Animal Health and Welfare
P Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

Your request will be processed within five working days.

Apply to become a recognised breed organisation

Organisations who hold stud books for a breed can apply to become recognised breed organisations. This means they are recognised by the government as being a stud book holder for the breed and consequentially have a number of responsibilities.

Recognised organisations are usually also a PIO, but a PIO does not have to be a recognised organisation. 

To apply to become a recognised organisation which maintains or establishes a stud book you must complete an application form.

Along with this application form you should send a copy of your stud book and a covering letter to the Scottish Government's Animal Health and Welfare team:

Alternatively you can post your request to:

Scottish Government Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities Directorate
Animal Health and Welfare
P Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

Back to top