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The conditions for import of live animals to the EU are laid down in European and national regulations and harmonised between Member States with a view to ensuring traceability and a certain level of safety against the transmission of diseases to humans or other animals when such movements start in third countries. At importation to the EU, any consignment of animals must be accompanied by a required health certificate in which the animal health requirements are validated by an official veterinarian in accordance with the relevant veterinary legislation. Animals may only be imported through border control posts where official veterinarians verify the compliance with the conditions for import into the EU.

Imports from approved third countries

Imports of certain species of animals are authorised only from the third countries included in the list of third countries or regions thereof approved to export these species.

The lists of countries are set out in European Union (EU) legislation. In verifying whether imports of a particular species from a particular third country are authorised, attention should be paid to additional criteria, information and notes to that list. For example: imports are only authorised from those third countries, territories or parts thereof where a common model health certificate is indicated next to the third country. The health certificate is marked by a special sign explained in the information box. In addition to the model certificate sign, there may be a note beside the name of the third country specifying that the third country must comply with additional health requirements for imports of that species.

Thus, a third country, territory or part thereof may be included in the list for imports of only a particular category of a particular species (such as: domestic bovine animals for breeding, domestic bovine animals for production, domestic bovine animals for slaughter, or poultry for breeding, poultry for production, poultry for slaughter, hatching eggs, day-old chicks and the like).

General import conditions

On importation, animals must fulfil the following import conditions laid down in EU legislation, in general:

animals must be identified (marked in accordance with EU regulations);

they must be accompanied by a health certificate (as laid down in EU regulations);

animals must fulfil the requirements for animal health, public health and animal welfare during transport which are specified in the certificate.

The health certificate must correspond to the model certificate laid down in the relevant EU regulation. The certificate is validated by an official veterinarian in the exporting third country. The health certificate must also be in the language of the EU Member State of entry. The certificate accompanies the consignment of animals to the border control post of entry where the import veterinary inspection is carried out.  

The consignment of animals must be notified in advance of the import via an online information system for ensuring traceability of consignments of animals — TRACES NT.

Specific additional conditions and guarantees

If necessary, additional import conditions may be required following an assessment of the specific situation regarding a disease in a third country in order to reduce potential disease risks. Additional requirements are set out in the relevant EU regulations and include:

  • specific guarantees: depending on the state of health in the third country; additional health guarantees may be required for certain diseases before animals can enter the EU. Where this is required by EU regulations, the third country must comply with these additional guarantees.
  • specific conditions: these are specific requirements based on the health status or animal and public health status in the listed third country (for example, if a third country, territory or part thereof is recognised as free of a certain disease, the import requirements may be less stringent), or specific additional requirements relating to certain diseases put in place by a particular EU Member State.   

When additional requirements are necessary, the official veterinarian in the exporting third country must ensure that the relevant sections of a health certificate are duly compiled or confirmed.

Imports through border control posts

Importation of a particular animal species is only allowed through border control posts (BCP) approved for the importation of that species. 

The arrival of the consignment at the BCP must be notified by the importer one working day in advance (number of animals, mode of transport and estimated time of arrival) by means of the required document.