In the guide

Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union, 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. 

This guidance is for England, Scotland and Wales

Country definitions 

The following terms are used throughout this guidance:

  • United Kingdom (UK): England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Great Britain (GB): England, Scotland and Wales 
  • Northern Ireland (NI)
  • European Union (EU): there are 27 Member States of the EU, including Ireland but not any of the UK countries
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Document requirements

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 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

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.

Equines

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.

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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.

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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.

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Further information

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.

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Trading standards

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'.

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In this update

New guidance: January 2022

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Key legislation

Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) Order 1974

Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals Order 2011

Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.

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Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

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