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
The Animal Health Act 1981, the Disease Control (England) Order 2003 and the Pigs (Records, Identification and Movement) Order 2011 lay down strict controls on keeping pigs, even as pets.
This legislation is in place because all pigs are farmed animals in the eyes of the law, whether kept as a single pet pig or as part of a large commercial herd. Pigs are susceptible to highly contagious diseases, which if allowed to spread unchecked could decimate the UK farming industry, such as was seen during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.
You must register as a pig keeper, have a licence for any movement of pigs on to or off your premises, and keep records of such movements.
Pigs are required to be identified with an ear tag / tattoo / slapmark consisting of the herd mark allocated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). If pigs are under a year old a temporary mark can be used but only in limited circumstances. Pigs must not be fed any surplus food, including table scraps and any food where there is any risk at all that it has been in contact with meat.
Pigs are farmed animals and must be properly disposed of if they die; burial is illegal.
If you intend to breed and sell or send animals to slaughter, then additional rules apply.
Risk of disease
When keeping a pig in domestic surroundings there is the potential risk of exposure to animal diseases, which you and your family members could catch. You should think seriously about how you will look after a pig in such a situation and the special precautions you will need to take to prevent illness.
Official documentation and registration: legal requirements
Before you move pigs on to your land, you must obtain a county parish holding (CPH) number. This is an individual identification number for the land and buildings where your pigs will be kept. Details of how to apply for a CPH number are available on the GOV.UK website.
When you have your CPH number you will need to obtain a movement licence so you can legally move your pig. In order to obtain a movement licence you have a number of options.
Register for eAML2 by going to the AHDB Pork website. You can then set up movements online and print the requisite number of haulier summary / movement documents. The eAML2 also incorporates the food chain information (FCI) that is required when moving pigs to slaughter.
If you do not have internet access then you still need an electronic eAML2 and you will be able to get one over the telephone by ringing the eAML2 helpline on 0844 335 8400. In this case the documents will be posted to you and you cannot move any pigs until the documents have been received.
Pig movements to a market / collection centre only do not need to be pre-notified. You may complete a written paper copy of the haulier summary. You can only move animals to market in this way if the market (or collection centre) agrees to complete the movement electronically for both the move from the farm and confirmation of the arrival at the market, on the day of arrival of the pigs. You must ensure the market or collection centre operators are agreeable to this before the movement of pigs physically occurs, and you must receive and retain confirmation from the market in the form of a completed eAML2 form.
You must then - within one month of getting your pigs or taking over a premises that already has pigs - register with APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) as a pig keeper, which will issue you with a herd number. You will be asked for your CPH number as a reference and will then be issued with a Defra herd mark, which is a quick and effective method for identifying premises from which pigs have moved.
Note: the registration with APHA is a legal requirement for disease control purposes and is not related to registration with any breed / pedigree societies.
All pig owners must keep records of the animals moving on to or off their premises. This information, known as a holding movement record, can be kept in written or electronic form. The holding movement record is required by law to hold specified information:
- name and address of the person keeping the record
- date of movement
- identification number or temporary mark
- number of pigs moved
- address of the holding from which they were moved
- address of the holding to which they were moved
You must record each movement of a pig on to or off your premises within 36 hours of the movement taking place, and once a year you will need to record the maximum number of pigs you normally keep and the actual number of pigs on your holding at that date. If you stop keeping pigs you must keep your records for three years after the date that the last animal left your premises.
You must also keep a record of any veterinary medicines purchased and administered to your pigs, including medicines given by a vet. For further information see 'Keeping veterinary medicine records'.
You must keep a record of the disposal of any dead pigs (see 'Disposal of animal by-products'). They cannot be buried, fed to dogs, etc.
Pigs are required to be identified with an ear tag / tattoo / slapmark consisting of the Defra-allocated herd mark when they are over a year old. It is also required when they are under a year old in the following circumstances:
- moving to market
- moving to slaughter
- moving to a show*
- being exported*
[*Must additionally be marked with a unique individual identification number.]
If your pet pig is less than 12 months old and not making one of the above-mentioned movements, a temporary mark (for example, a blue dot or red stripe with livestock marker spray) may be used to identify the animal.
It is important to identify a pig with your herd mark before it is moved off your holding. So even if a pig was identified when it came on to your holding, you must identify it again with your herd mark before it moves again.
Transporting your pet pigs
When transporting your pigs you must always consider their welfare needs and any precautions to be taken to prevent the spread of disease. You must be especially careful not to transport your pigs in any way likely to cause injury or undue suffering, and you must be able to cleanse and disinfect the vehicle or container. For this reason it is advisable to transport any livestock in a vehicle or trailer specially designed for livestock transport.
When you get the pigs home
Once you move pigs on to a registered holding the premises will be subject to 'standstill' rules.
Standstill rules apply different time restrictions on different species of livestock and are designed to slow the spread of disease within livestock and help protect the farming industry.
These rules mean that any pigs, or other livestock already on your premises, will not be allowed to move off the address for a set period of time; in the case of pigs this is 20 days (with limited exceptions). This means your pigs cannot move anywhere until 20 full days have elapsed; in other words, pigs are free to move again on the 21st day after they were moved on to your premises.
If any sheep or cattle are kept on your holding and you move a pig on to the premises, those sheep and cattle cannot be moved anywhere until six full days have elapsed; in other words, cattle and sheep are free to move again on the seventh day after pigs were moved on to your premises.
Surplus food can cause disease. It is illegal to feed your animal with surplus food such as scraps from your house. It is also illegal to feed pigs with food from restaurants, kitchens and other catering facilities. There are serious penalties for anyone found breaching these strict rules. For more information on what can and can't be fed to livestock see 'Disposal of surplus food'.
If a pig dies
There are strict laws governing the disposal of livestock carcases, which includes pet pigs. You cannot bury your pet pig if it dies. Instead the body must be taken to, or collected by, an approved knacker's yard, hunt kennel, incinerator or rendering operator by private arrangement. For more information see 'Disposal of animal by-products'.
If you own a pet pig and you want to walk the animal off the premises, you must apply for a walking licence. These licences are issued by Defra and contain these conditions:
- the exercise route you use is the same as the route on the certificate
- you always keep the pig on a lead
- there is no contact with other pigs
- you never feed the pig with surplus food
- you carry a copy of the licence throughout the walk
To get a walking licence contact APHA on 03000 200301. The licence needs to be renewed every year.
Your pigs' welfare
Owners and keepers are legally responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met, both where they are kept and when being transported.
Failure to comply with trading standards law can lead to enforcement action and to sanctions, which may include a fine and/or imprisonment. For more information please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement & penalties'.
Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 laying down health rules as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption (Animal by-products Regulation)
Last reviewed / updated: July 2020
In this update
Link added to new Code of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs