There are a number of directives dealing with both the import and transit of animals.  One category of directives deals with imports from outside the EU whereas another category deal with imports between EU states.  Technically imports between EU states are described as intra EU trade whereas imports referred to imports from outside the EU.

The directive on the import of live animals, lays down principles for the external border controls and arrangements governing internal movement of live animals from third-party states.  A documentary check by the authorities must be carried out for each consignment of animals from a third party state. The directive lays down procedures for checks on arrival at the destination.  They may take the form of non-discriminatory spot checks.  Where there are grounds for suspecting infringement checks may be carried out during transportation.

The rules to be followed by consignees, procedures governing checks at the point of entry and procedures to be implied where checks reveal an irregularity or serious threat to public or animal health are laid down. The animals are then subject to an identity check and a physical check at the inspection post  in the immediate vicinity of the point of entry in the EU territory or in quarantine where necessary.

The directive provides the rules for checks which must be followed by consignees and the procedures for placing live animals in quarantine.  It also deals with conditions which must be met by the inspection post.  The official veterinarian responsible for the inspection post issues a certificate when satisfied that the veterinary import conditions have been complied with.

The directive sets conditions for the transportation of animals from a third country .  If animals do not meet the conditions laid out in community legislation the competent authority can decide to place them in quarantine or arrange for re-exportation or slaughter.

The commission must adopt the rules  which apply to imports of animals for slaughter intended for local consumption and rules applicable to animals for breeding and production in certain parts of the EU in order to take account of natural constraints particular to those territories and their remoteness from the mainland part of the EU.

Safeguard measures are  required if there is a serious threat to animal or public health. They may prohibit the direct or indirect importation of animals from a third country or part of it or subject it to special conditions.  Veterinary experts from the commission in conjunction with authorities must verify that inspection post and quarantine stations satisfy the approved requirements.

Each state must draw up a program for the exchange of officials empowered to carry out checks on animals from third countries.  The Commission is assisted by the standing committee on the food chain and animal health.

Directives on the import of products apply to food products of animal origin, animal feed, plant products and by-products not intended for human consumption.

Border Posts and Pre-Import Veterinary Checks

States must submit a list of border inspection post responsible for carrying out checks to the Commission.  They must furnish necessary information on  the type of inspection post and animals likely to be checked.  The list must be kept updated.

The Commission has introduced a computerized data processing system that provides links between border inspection services, veterinary authorities and  the commission.  This system covers the import of animals. It  is linked to the systems for the exchange of information between veterinary authorities provided for in other directives.  It is known as TRACES.

All consignments of products in third countries must be subject to veterinary checks before being introduced into the EU.  They are carried out at border inspection posts by the authorities under the responsibility of the official veterinarian.  These include:

  • documentary checks, verifying the veterinarian certificates and documents accompanying the consignment.
  • identity checks to ascertain the products correspond with the information in these certificates.
  • physical checks in order to ascertain the products comply with the requirements of EU legislation such as packaging, sampling, laboratory testing

The Directives lay down common rules for the admission of products to a free-zone, free-warehouse or customs warehouse.

When the products are not to be marketed in the state that carries out the check, the official veterinarian responsible for the border inspection post, issues the authorities of the country of destination with the certificates and statements concerning the products and the results of the laboratory tests. The directive sets conditions for the transport of products from the third country to another country.

There are exemptions for the following.

  • those products which form part of personal luggage and are intended for private consumption.  small consignments sent to private individuals,
  • products intended for consumption by persons on board, planes and boats travelling internationally.
  • products which have been subject to heat treatment in a hermetically sealed container with certain values.
  • trade samples.

The directive lays down the procedure for circumstances where the checks show that products do not meet the conditions and standards in EU legislation are revealed and in regularity. If circumstances are liable to cause a threat to animal or public health or for serious health reasons, the commission may suspend or set conditions on imports from the third country’s concern.

If the state of destination establishes non-compliance with the directive it must inform the state through which the products were imported.  Where repeated non-compliance is ascertained the competent authority of the state of destination must inform the commission and other states.

In the event of non-compliance with legislation on animal feed or foodstuffs measures apply including in particular the destruction or returning of  the products or subjecting them to appropriate procedures or treatments.

Directives on the importation of products of animal origin provide detailed rules governing checks at the point of origin, and reinforces checks to be performed by establishments of origin and by official veterinarians designated by authorities. The checks must cover the marking and labelling of products, provision of necessary documentation and certificate in accordance with EU rules for the destination in question.

Milk and Dairy

The directive on the importation of raw milk and dairy products governs the introduction of such products into the EU. Third countries wishing to export milk or dairy products to the EU must be included in a list of countries authorized to do so which are specified by regulation.  Prior to being entered on the list the countries concerned must undergo an inspection by the commission’s food and veterinary office to determine they comply with the fundamental animal and public health condition.

Animal health conditions are laid down by the directive.  They embrace animal health rules governing production, processing, distribution and introduction of products of animal origin for human consumption.  The health conditions for milk and dairy product are laid down by regulation.  They cover the general rules on the hygiene of foodstuffs and more specific hygiene rule applying to certain foods of animal origin.

Third countries must in particular, comply with processing requirements.  The required treatments are set out in the regulation.  They must be established according to the health status of the exporting third country.

Imports of raw milk and raw milk-based dairy products are only authorized from countries with high health status. Countries with less favourable status, e.g. where vaccinated against foot and mouth disease, may only export pasteurized milk and dairy products made from pasteurized milk.

For each third country, specific processing requirements are defined in accordance with the health situation.  They must be complied with when manufacturing milk or dairy products.

There is a requirement that all establishments be approved for the production of milk and dairy product. Batches of raw milk and dairy products to be imported into the EU must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by the official veterinarian authority of the exporting country.  Health certificates for imports of raw milk and dairy products must be provided in accordance with the annexes to the regulation.

Batches of raw milk and dairy products which are in transit or stored in EU must meet basic conditions and requirements applying to imports of raw milk and dairy products.  They must be accompanied by a health certificate, in line with the model set out in the regulation.  It must be certified as acceptable for transit or storage in the veterinary entry document signed by the veterinary at the border inspection post.

Milk and dairy products entering the EU are inspected at border inspection posts.    Directives set out principles governing the organization of veterinary checks and products entering the EU.

There are special regulations on the import and transit of certain live ungulate animals which are susceptible to certain diseases, such as foot and mouth disease.  Animals imported or transited through the EU must come from countries or regions which appear on the authorized list.  It must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate.  They must comply with specific animal health rules.

The Commission assisted by the standing committee on the food chain draws up a list of areas from which importations of animal are authorized.  This in particular, takes account of the

  • legislation of the country concerned,
  • the organization and powers of the authority and inspection services.
  • the country’s health status and procedures for notifying the commission and international organizations.
  • compliance or equivalence with the EU standards
  • community inspections carried out in the third country

Authorized non-EU states must guarantee that their animals have been checked by a veterinary official and comply with certain animal health conditions taking into account the species, age and use of the animal concerned.

Each consignment of animals must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate attesting that the animals concerned are hazard free and providing certain information in relation to the animals’ health and welfare.

Derogations  may be permitted depending on the destination of the animals, e.g. zoos, pet animals.


Directive lays down the animal health conditions governing trade movement and importation of equidae.  The directive covers wild and domesticated animals, of the equine, or asinine species.  Exemptions may be allowed for equidae used for sporting, recreational or cultural reasons.

Equidae moved between states.

  • must show no sign of disease at inspection which will be carried out within 48 hours of embarkation.
  • must not have been in contact with equidae suffering from infections or contagious diseases during the 15 days prior to inspection
  • must not be slaughtered under a program of contagious or infectious disease eradication
  • must be identified by document on due technical and genealogical conditions on intra EU trade in equidae
  • must not come from a holding which has been the subject of a prohibition order relating to the outbreak of infectious or contagious disease

There are conditions in relation to transport and movement of equidae which have been subject to certain diseases.

Third countries wishing to export equidae within the EU must be included in a list of authorized countries.  Authorizations are granted having regard to the animal health situation of equidae in the third country and guarantees that the country provides in terms of health and well being of animals.

Equidae must come from a third country or region which is free from certain specified diseases.

Equidae must have been for a set period in the country of export.  They must be identified and accompanied by a health certificate issued by an official veterinarian of the exporting country.  The inspection shall be made by a veterinary expert from the states and the commission.


A Directive on the EU trade in poultry and hatching eggs applies to poultry including foul, turkeys, chickens, ducks geese, ostriches, day-old chicks i.e. less than 72 hours and hatching eggs

Establishments producing poultry and hatching eggs must obtain approval to conduct trade within EU.  This is granted by the commission after examining the position.  They must satisfy conditions with regard to facilities and operations.

States must designate their own reference laboratory.  Poultry and hatching eggs which are the subject of EU trade must satisfy health conditions laid down in the directive.  They must come from groups of healthy animals and originate from approved establishments, not the subject of any animal health restrictions applicable to poultry.

The transportation of poultry and hatching eggs must comply with specific conditions relating to containers, packages, boxes, crates, cages and vehicles.  Poultry and hatching eggs must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate, conforming to the model in the directive.

Poultry and hatching eggs may be imported from outside the EU provided they have originated in an approved third country.  In order to be registered in the list of approved countries, they must guarantee compliance with health conditions at least equivalent to those in the EU.  In particular, they must

  • satisfy conditions applicable to groups of animals under the establishment of origin.
  • provide for rapid warning systems of contagious diseases
  • preventive control of contagious diseases
  • comply with rules in relation to health and veterinary services
  • guarantee compliance with community rules

States must require  compulsory notification of certain diseases including avian influenza and Newcastle’s disease.

Poultry and hatching eggs must be accompanied by a certificate signed by an official veterinarian of the exporting country during transport.  On the spot inspections may be carried out.


An  EU directive lays provides for  pure-bred breeding sheep and goat, their ova, embryos and semen.

There is provision for flock books which cover any book, register, file or medium maintained by an officially approved breeder’s organization or association.  States may not prohibit, restrict, or impede on zootechnical grounds intra-EU trade.

The EU has set out criteria for recognizing breeder’s organization which establish or maintain flock books.

  • criteria for entry or registration in a flock book.
  • methods for monitoring performance and assessment of genetic value.
  • criteria for approval of breeding animals.

The directive on EU trade in ovine and caprine animals defines animal health conditions.  They may only be traded within the EU provided they meet the following conditions.

  • no clinical sign of disease during veterinary inspection prior to loading.
  • not intended for slaughter under a disease eradication scheme.
  • do not originate from a holding subject to prohibitions on health grounds.
  • not subject to animal health measures in EU legislation
  • have not been vaccinated against foot and mouth disease
  • born and reared in the EU or come from an EU state appearing on approved list
  • fulfill certain minimum criteria in respect of time spent in the holding
  • dispatched as directly and quickly as possible in order to reduce the risk of contamination



Assembly centres where ovine and caprine animals are separated into consignments must follow animal health conditions and be inspected regularly.  The registration and approval scheme for animal dealers, must ensure adequate sanitary conditions during trading and during time spent on their own premises.


The transportation of animals particularly vehicle hygiene, isolation of transported animals and animal health certificates must comply with the criteria in the directive.


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