In the guide

Although the United Kingdom left the European Union (EU) in 2021, certain pieces of legislation (known as 'assimilated law') continue to apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation, revoked or permitted to expire. This means that our guidance still contains references to legislation that originated from the EU.

This guidance is for England

Vehicles that transport animals are required to be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to avoid injury and suffering, and to ensure the safety of the animals transported in them. Requirements apply to transport of animals by road, rail, vessels and aircraft.

The legislation applies to persons who transport live vertebrate animals - which includes farm livestock (cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, deer and horses) - in connection with an economic activity (in other words, a business or trade).

Principal requirements

The welfare of animals during transport is protected by assimilated Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations. This is brought into law in England by the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006. The law requires that vehicles and loading / unloading facilities be designed, constructed, maintained and operated so as to:

  • avoid injury and suffering, and to ensure the safety of the animals
  • protect the animals from inclement weather, extreme temperatures and adverse changes in climate conditions
  • allow cleansing and disinfection
  • prevent the animals escaping or falling out and be able to withstand the stresses of movements
  • provide barriers to prevent animals falling when loading or unloading
  • ensure that air quality and quantity appropriate to the species transported can be maintained
  • provide access to the animals to allow them to be inspected and cared for
  • present a flooring surface that is anti-slip
  • present a flooring surface that minimises the leakage of urine or faeces
  • provide a means of lighting sufficient for inspection and care of the animals during transport and during loading / unloading

Sufficient space must be provided inside the animals' compartment and at each of its levels; this is to ensure that there is adequate ventilation above the animals when they are in a naturally standing position, without on any account hindering their natural movement.

Sufficient ventilation must be provided to ensure that the needs of the animals are fully met.

Partitions must be used where necessary to provide support or to prevent animals being thrown about. When they are used they:

  • must be positioned to prevent injury or unnecessary suffering
  • should be of rigid construction, strong enough to withstand animal weight, and constructed and positioned so as not to interfere with ventilation
  • should have fittings designed for quick and easy operation

Signs must be clearly and visibly marked, indicating the presence of live animals.

Vehicles must carry suitable equipment for loading and unloading.

Ramps must not be steeper than an angle of 20 degrees (36.4% to the horizontal) for pigs, calves and horses; and an angle of 26 degrees 34 minutes (50% to the horizontal) for sheep and cattle other than calves.

Where the slope is steeper than 10 degrees (17.6% to the horizontal) ramps must be fitted with a system such as that provided by foot battens, which ensure that the animals climb or go down without risks or difficulties.

Lifting platforms and upper floors must have safety barriers, in order to prevent animals falling or escaping during loading and unloading operations.

Suitable provision must be made so that animals may be tied to the interior of the vehicle; however, animals must not be tied by the horns or nose ring. Ropes or other attachments must be sufficiently strong not to break and designed to eliminate danger of strangulation or injury; they must also be long enough to allow the animal to lie down and to eat and drink, if necessary. Fittings should be quick release.

Additional requirements apply to vehicles transporting livestock for over eight hours. Such vehicles must also be inspected and approved by a body approved by the competent authority (a list of certifying bodies in the vehicle inspection and approval scheme is available on the GOV.UK website).

Further construction requirements also apply to means of animal transport by air, in containers, livestock vessels and vessels transporting sea containers. More information on welfare during transportation in relation to these requirements is available on the GOV.UK website.

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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

No major changes.

Last reviewed / updated: June 2024

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Key legislation

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 often only shows 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 changes to legislation can be found by following the above links and clicking on the '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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