While all European Union member nations require that horse owners or caretakers have their animals officially identified by electronic microchip, Switzerland has gone a step further. In order to better manage disease outbreaks, Swiss owners must now register horses and report movement and other significant status changes to federal officials.

This means that every time a horse moves to a different stable or changes owners, an official notification must be made to the Animal Tracing Database (BDTA).

Short-term movements (lasting less than 30 days) do not need to be reported, said Colette Schmid, project leader in the Division of Animal Production and Breeding in the Federal Office of Agriculture. But owners must notify officials when their horses are imported or exported, castrated, and when the horse dies or is euthanized.

Equally importantly, owners must inform the BDTA when they change the horse’s official "use status." In Switzerland, all horses are born with the "livestock" use status—meaning their meat can be supplied to the food chain. Owners can choose to officially change the horse’s status to “pet,” however this decision is irreversible and can have significant consequences, the BDTA website states.

“Livestock” horses must have thorough veterinary paperwork listing all treatments they receive, and medication choices for these animals are limited. However, “pet” horses have less stringent veterinary paperwork requirements and more possibilities for medications. As a result, “pet” horses cannot be sent to slaughter.

The BDTA was created in