Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has warned there will be a significant increase in prosecutions of horse owners who fail to have their animals microchipped for identification purposes.

Referring to legislation which requires horses identified after July 2009 to be issued with a passport and to have a corresponding microchip implanted, Mr Coveney said that up until now the legislation was not enforced because the Government had adopted an amnesty approach to the issue.

However, he said that amnesty period is now over and all those involved with horses should be aware of their responsibilities and must abide by the law.

Minister Coveney has signed into law important new regulations concerning the identification and change of ownership of horses.

The new regulations, which come into effect immediately, will strengthen the powers of the Minister in relation to the seizure and detention of horses and documents.

Mr Coveney has also announced a review of the Control of Horses Act.

The review will involve a short consultation period in advance of the summer holidays.

He asked for all those with an interest in horse welfare to feed their ideas into the consultative process.

Mr Coveney confirmed that the final consultation phase on dog micro chipping will start in the coming weeks with the publication of the draft Statutory Instrument.

Dog micro chipping will be compulsory from 1 January 2016.

The Minister was speaking at a conference on Animal Welfare in Dublin Castle organised by his own department.

Meanwhile, the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has said Ireland needs to face up to the issue of horse population control.

Brian Gillen told the conference on animal welfare at Dublin Castle that the DSPCA had to put down two to three horses every week throughout the winter.

Mark Beazley of the Dogs Trust said that his organisation will be spending €150,000 to help people who cannot afford to get their dogs microchipped.

All dog owners are obliged to have their pets microchipped by 2016 under the Animal Welfare Act 2013.

Mr Beazley said people should check that the microchips are registered to a proper database.

Groups protesting about the Animal Welfare Act outside Dublin Castle have said they are concerned that the act ignores many of the issues related to animal cruelty in Ireland.

The use of animals in circuses, hare coursing, fox hunting, fur farming, and puppy farms are not covered by the legislation.

The protesters also called for an end to live animal exports from Ireland.