A new law requiring horse owners to microchip their animals has been introduced today to prevent abuse and improve welfare.

Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) figures show that the organisation rescued around 1,000 horses in 2017.

Many of the horses had been fly-tipped or dumped on public property or farmland, often in horrific conditions.

From October 2020, it will be mandatory for all owners to microchip their horses, ponies and donkeys.

The new Central Equine Database will then allow local authorities and police to track down the owners of dumped horses and make sure they are punished and the animals given the care they deserve.

It will also mean lost or stolen horses will be reunited with their owners more easily.

'Completely unacceptable'

Lord Gardiner, Animal Welfare Minister, said: “The government shares the British public’s high regard for animal welfare and it is completely unacceptable that hundreds of horses and ponies are left abandoned every year by irresponsible owners.

“That is why we have today laid new regulations in Parliament requiring horses to be microchipped.

"This will bolster the ability of local authorities and police to identify abandoned animals, ensuring these beautiful creatures receive the care they deserve and that those who mistreat them will face the consequences.”

The Central Equine Database logs all domesticated horses - including those required to be microchipped by October 2020.

It's hoped the move will offer a practical solution to animal welfare issues which arise when horses are abandoned, making it easier to rehome the animals more quickly and effectively and has been welcomed by charities such as the RSPCA.

The two-year lead time will allow horse owners to combine microchipping with a routine vet visit, with the procedure costing around £25-30.

RSPCA assistant director of external affairs, David Bowles said: “We are delighted that regulations to ensure horses of all ages should be microchipped are set to become a reality.

“The RSPCA rescued almost 1,000 horses last year, and a huge majority were not microchipped, making it virtually impossible to trace the owners.

“We believe this extension of the current rules on compulsory microchipping will go some way to help find those irresponsible owners that abandon their horses, as well as helping owners be reunited with their animals that have been stolen.”

If horse owners do not microchip their horses by October 2020 they could face sanctions from their local authority including a compliance notice and, as a last resort, a fine of up to £200.

The regulations for this database were laid in Parliament today and, subject to parliamentary approval, will come into force on October 1.