Import of live animals.

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 refer 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 the 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 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.

States must submit a list of border inspection posts 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.

Third Country Requirements

The directive sets conditions for the transportation of animals from a third country.  If animals do not meet the conditions laid out in EU 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.

Food of Animal Origin

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.

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.

Checks Designated

Directives on the importation of products of animal origin provide detailed rules governing checks at the point of origin and reinforce 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.

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.


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