Over the past nine months, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has received extensive evidence that has identified significant gaps in the understanding and management of Australia's horse population. Whilst an owner of a dog or cat is required to register their animal with their local council, and pigs, goats, sheep and cattle are registered under the National Livestock Identification System, horse owners are omitted from similar regulatory requirements. The most pertinent example is the absence of any clear data on the number of horses that exist in Australia. Further, there is inadequate information available about the location of horses or owner details. Existing industry registers are piecemeal and do not capture the entire industry.

The committee is convinced of the merits of establishing a national horse traceability register.

There is overwhelming support across the horse industry for a national horse traceability register in some form. However, one of the primary challenges revealed during this inquiry is achieving consensus across the horse industry of a single, clear rationale for a national register.

This challenge is driven by the diverse nature of the horse industry, with each sector having its own idea of what a horse traceability register would look like, and what purpose it would serve. Proposed functions of a register included addressing the industry's biosecurity concerns, identifying horses during natural disasters, horse theft, improved rider safety, horse welfare, regulatory compliance and accessing international horsemeat markets and improved breeding practices.

Key recommendations:

  • The committee recommends the Department of Agriculture establishes a national horse traceability working group, under the auspices of the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee, to progress the development and implementation of a national horse traceability register. The group should report its findings to the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee within 12-months of its establishment.
  • The committee recommends Animal Health Australia becomes a member of the national horse traceability working group, and in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, ensures a horse traceability register aligns with and bolsters the Australian Government's biosecurity responsibilities.
  • The committee recommends that the national horse traceability working group works towards establishing a national horse traceability register that, at its core, serves a biosecurity function.
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