Animal imports and exports: guidance

This guidance applies only to import and export of farm animals and domesticated animals.


This guidance is currently under review and may not reflect the current position (May 2021).

Imports and exports of animals and animal products represent an important and significant contribution to the UK economy - but they can also bring with them the risk of animal diseases. Imports are therefore subject to strict controls at the UK border under EU and national rules.

There is free movement of animals within the British Isles, including between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Trade within the EU

Live animals and their products (including germplasm) are traded freely within the EU. Responsibility lies with the member state of origin to ensure that such trade meets animal and public health standards as set out in EU legislation.

Imports from third countries

Animals and their products imported into the EU from third countries must have been produced to animal and public health standards at least equivalent to those in the EU.

They may only be imported from countries approved by the EU and, in case of food, from approved establishments. All products must be accompanied by the appropriate animal and/or public health certification and then entered on the EU's Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) which provides robust tracking and audit.

Animals and products may only enter the EU at specifically approved points of entry - called Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) - where they are subject to checks by Local Authorities or the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA).

The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) deliver a wide range of statutory inspection and certification services for businesses and individuals which support consumer confidence and facilitate the ability to trade. These statutory charges have been updated to align with government policy requiring that services of commercial benefit should be charged at full-cost recovery rate. The new fees, which include fees for checks undertaken by APHA at Border Inspection Posts (BIPs), come into force on the 24 June 2013.

Importer information notes on various animals can be found on the Defra website.

Pet owners are encouraged to contact APHA's CITES team to check whether they are required to obtain any permits or documentation relating to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Specified animal pathogens

Specified pathogens are viruses and other infectious agents that must be controlled and contained to prevent their release or escape into the environment. If Specified Pathogens are released, they can cause serious animal or human disease. A full list of these pathogens can be found in the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (Scotland) 2009.

Information about the licences you need and the rules you must follow to import Specified Animal Pathogens into Scotland is available on the UK government website.

Personal food imports

Controls are in place to reduce the risk of contaminated food (in particular meat and dairy products) and plants being brought into the UK and putting people, animals and agriculture at risk of disease. The risk can also be economic with the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in 2001 possibly originating from meat imported illegally into the UK, or via catering waste from ships or airlines. This outbreak was estimated to have cost £3 billion relating to agriculture and the food chain. People travelling outside of the EU can check what food they can, and can't bring back to the UK here.

Rabies quarantine

Pet cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits and rodents will require up to four months in rabies quarantine if one of the following applies:

  • it’s a cat, dog or ferret travelling from outside the UK and it doesn’t meet the pet travel rules
  • it’s a rabbit or rodent travelling from outside the EU
  • it’s a rabbit or rodent travelling from an EU country and it’s been living there for less than four months

Guidance on when to put your pet in rabies quarantine is available on the UK Government website.

General licences

General import licence no


Country of origin


Live animals of the taxa Proboscidea and Artiodactyla

(excluding Suidae, Bos Taurus, Bison Bison, Bubalis Bubalis, Ovis aries and Capra hircus)

Bulgaria, Switzerland, Chile, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greenland, Croatia, Hungary, Iceland, Lithuanaia, Latvia, Malta, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia


Ruminating Ungulates of the Antilocapridae, Bovidae, Camelidae, Cervidae, Giraffidae, Moshidae and Traguilidae families

Member States of the European Union and Norway


Ruminating Ungulates of the Antilocapridae, Bovidae, Camelidae, Cervidae, Giraffidae, Moshidae and Traguilidae families

Approved bodies, institute or centre approved in accordance with Annex C of Council Directive 92/65/EEC


Calves under 15 days of age

Northern Ireland


Deer for immediate slaughter

Northern Ireland


Ruminating Ungulates of the Antilocapridae, Bovidae, Camelidae, Cervidae, Giraffidae, Moshidae and Traguilidae families

Northern Ireland


Pigs for breeding, production and immediate slaughter

Northern Ireland


Sheep and goats

Northern Ireland


Cattle aged 15 days and over

Northern Ireland

Relevant legislation

The Trade in Animals and Related Products (Scotland) Regulations 2012 lay down the rules for the imports of animal products from outside the EU and the intra-Community trade of live animals and the trade of some products.

The Bovine Semen (Scotland) Regulations 2007 lay down the rules for the collection, storage and and use of bovine semen for domestic and intra-union trade.

The Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and Other Mammals) Order 1974 sets out the requirements for bringing rabies susceptible animals into Great Britain. 



Tel: 0300 244 9874

Animal Health and Welfare,
P Spur
Saughton House,
Broomhouse Drive,
EH11 3XD

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