The equine sector has welcomed long-sought changes to the previously controversial Tripartite Agreement which effectively allowed the free movement of horses without health checks between the Britain, Ireland and France.
From May next year, the privileges of the agreement will apply only to “high health” horses, including thoroughbred racehorses, breeding stock and FEI sport horses going to and from France.
Furthermore, all these movements will now be traceable.
Movements between Britain and Ireland will remain unchanged due to the two islands’ shared health status.
All other movements of horses between the countries would be required to follow the normal rules when moving between EU countries. Horses must travel with a health certificate issued by a veterinary surgeon.
Industry players said the change would reduce the risk of equine diseases being carried across borders.
“This is excellent news for horses and everyone involved in the horse industry,” said Louise Kemble, of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
She said Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs deserved credit for involving the sector so closely in the whole process, and negotiating what should be a more effective and enforceable system.
“We now have a Tripartite Agreement that will serve its original purpose: to allow the free movement of high health horses to competition and breeding.”
Roly Owers, the head of British-based charity World Horse Welfare, said: “This change was badly needed and had been long called for by World Horse Welfare and the wider sector.
“Quite simply the previous Tripartite Agreement was an open door for equine disease to enter the UK, and there was evidence it was being used to transport vulnerable horses and ponies of a low value between the three countries, sometimes as cover for other illegal activities.
“This decision, if effectively enforced, will help to prevent the spread of disease and protect thousands of vulnerable horses and ponies from totally unnecessary journeys each year.”
David Mountford, of the British Equine Veterinary Association, said equine veterinarians had been concerned over the risks posed by so many horses travelling between countries without health checks.
“It was a disaster waiting to happen, so this change is great news.
“However, the focus now needs to be on the effective implementation of the revised agreement and to communicate this to vets and horse owners across the country.”