In the guide
Although the United Kingdom has left the European Union (EU), certain pieces of legislation (formally known as 'retained EU law') will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU regulations in our guidance.
To fully understand this guidance, it is important to note the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain:
- UK: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
- GB: England, Scotland and Wales
This guidance is for England, Scotland and Wales
When animals are to be imported, all relevant persons must ensure that they are correctly identified, in good health and accompanied by the correct documentation. There are also documentation requirements for germplasm and germinal products.
Imports of live animals and germplasm / germinal products (semen, ova and embryos) need to come with one or all of the following.
Commercial document. This should be provided by the supplier. It contains the name of the sender, the name of the receiver and details what is in the consignment.
Import licence. This details the species / product, country of origin and port of entry / border inspection post. It may also include specific conditions.
Health certificate. This is an official document that is signed by either an official veterinary surgeon or an authorised officer. It confirms that the import meets the destination country's health requirements. The original certificate (not a copy) must travel with the consignment. The health certificate will contain a unique notification number (UNN); the format of this number will be IMP.GB.2022.1XXXXXX.
Health certificates for imports of the following goods will be introduced from 1 July 2022:
- animal by-products
- high-risk food or feed not of animal origin
Journey logs. These are separate documents that must accompany the consignment, in addition to all the other required documentation. They contain information about the plan for the journey, place of departure and destination, as well as the transporter declaration. For movements of live animals from the EU to or through GB a journey log is required to be approved by the EU Member State of origin, in addition to a journey log approved by the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA). Two officially approved journey logs are required for each imported consignment.
Germinal products can only be imported into the UK from businesses approved by the EU to trade with the UK.
Customs declarations. There are two main systems that deal with imports:
- Customs Handling of Imports and Exports Freight (CHIEF). CHIEF is a database reporting system that enables records to be kept of the movement of goods by sea, air and land. It automatically checks for entry errors on inputs made as part of customs declarations by importers, exporters and other relevant parties. It is planned that CHIEF will be phased out and replaced by the Customs Declaration Service
- Customs Declaration Service (CDS). Similar to CHIEF, this database will be the long-term replacement for the CHIEF database. It is currently only used for products moving between Northern Ireland (NI) and GB
Two switchover phases are planned, one for export and one for import. From the dates given below declarations must be made using CDS instead of CHIEF:
- import: 30 September 2022
- export: 31 March 2023
As the import date has passed, CDS must now be used for import declarations.
APHA must be pre-notified, using the import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS), of all imports of live animals from the EU to GB. Pre-notification of the consignment can be done up to 30 days in advance, but must be made no later than one working day before arrival. A copy of the health certificate, where required for a particular consignment, must be added to the relevant import notification on IPAFFS.Back to top
Equines may be subject to pre-import testing, although certain exemptions exist.
Equines registered with a national branch of an international body for sporting or competition purposes, or an EU approved studbook, do not require pre-import testing when being imported from the EU or Norway. Any equines not able to claim the testing exemption are required to be tested for equine viral arteritis and equine infectious anemia. Information on pre-import isolation and residency requirements for unregistered equines is available on the GOV.UK website.Back to top
Any pigs imported to Great Britain from Northern Ireland, the EU or outside the EU must have an ear tag or tattoo applied within 30 days of arrival containing the letters 'UK', the herd mark of the destination premises and the letter 'F'. Pigs moved direct to a licenced slaughterhouse and slaughtered within 30 days of arrival are exempt from this requirement.Back to top
Isolation periods for imported livestock
Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs imported for breeding and production must be taken without delay from the border control post (BCP) to the holding of destination and kept there for at least 30 days, unless consigned to a slaughterhouse. Animals intended for immediate slaughter must be conveyed without delay from the BCP to the slaughterhouse where they should be slaughtered as soon as possible but at least within five working days.
Poultry and ratites are subject to being kept on the destination premises for six weeks or until the day of slaughter. The isolation period may be reduced to three weeks as a result of negative disease test results.
Some other species may need to stay at the destination premises for 48 hours.
Consignments may need post-import checks; AHPA will provide appropriate advice on this.Back to top
Pets and non-native species, including zoo residents
When importing cats, dogs and ferrets into GB, one or more of the following documents are required:
- animal health certificate
- pet passport
- GB pet health certificate
The documentary requirements are dependent on the country of origin. Full details on pet importation are available on the GOV.UK website.
Commercial imports of pets
When importing dogs, cats or ferrets which are going to be sold, rehomed or have their ownership transferred, then this movement will be considered a commercial import. If you are importing more than five cats, dogs and ferrets and/or you are unable to travel to accompany the pets five days before they arrive in Great Britain, this would also be considered a commercial import.
Commercial imports of pets - as well as many zoo and lab animals - are subject to the Balai Directive, which covers what is required to move certain animals (and their germplasm) that are not traditional livestock. Conditions of travel also include tapeworm treatment in dogs, rabies vaccinations and microchipping.
Imports of reptiles, invertebrates (except bees, molluscs and crustaceans) and amphibians (except salamanders) must:
- be notified to IPAFFS at least one working day before arrival
- have an exporter's declaration regarding fitness to travel
- be accompanied by a document detailing the origin of the consignment, the species, number of occupants and the destination
Any animal listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) requires a permit or certificate for import. This documentation is also required for movements between GB and NI.Back to top
More detailed information on transiting animals and animal products through GB can be found on the GOV.UK website.
The APHA Vet Gateway provides more detailed information regarding imports of live animal and genetic material.Back to top
For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.Back to top
In this update
Information added about pigs.
Last reviewed / updated: November 2022Back to top