The number of equine animals or equidae in the European Union is small, probably not many more than 6 millions, compared to hundreds of millions of other livestock. To keep, breed and use equidae - first and foremost horses - is labour intensive and it represents a source of income for a part of the farming community.
However, equidae, and in particular horses, are very mobile compared to other livestock, and in many cases they represent as an individual an enormous economic and emotional value. The reoccurrence of major equine infectious diseases which, if they had ever occurred, were successfully eradicated in the EU countries would seriously compromise the rational development of equidae production and intra-Union trade in such animals.
Definition and general animal health conditions
The animal health conditions governing the movement of equidae (equine animals) between the EU countries and their importation from non-EU countries are laid down in Council Directive 2009/156/EC.
This Directive provides the definition for equine animals or equidae. They can be: odd-toed ungulates - whether wild or domesticated - namely horses, donkeys (including Asian wild asses), zebras and their crossings.
Categories of equidae
- Registered equidae, which are registered in studbooks established in accordance with Council Directive 90/427/EEC laying down the zootechnical and genealogical conditions governing intra-Union trade in equidae, or with international organisations managing competitions
- Equidae for slaughter, which are destined to be transported to a slaughterhouse, and
- Equidae for breeding and production, which are all the other equidae not defined as registered equidae or equidae for slaughter.
Directive 2009/156/EC provides for the obligation of keepers to notify to the authorities any suspect of 8 specified diseases. Equidae moving on the territory of a Member State or traded between Member States must come from areas free of African horse sickness and premises free of major equine diseases (such as glanders and dourine) but also equine infectious anaemia and any type of equine encephalomyelitis.
Equidae born in the Union shall be identified by an identification document (passport).
As of 1 January 2016, equidae must be identified in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/262.
Non-registered equidae must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate and registered equidae by an attestation which does not specify the destination of the movement, thus allowing, for example, participation in consecutive competitions at different places during the 10 days period of validity of that attestation.