Guidance

Balai Directive: importing, exporting or moving live animals, semen, ova and embryos

Rules for importing, exporting or moving live animals, including some pet animals, and germplasm (semen, ova and embryos) for conservation or display.

The Balai Directive tells you what you need to do to move certain animals that are not traditional livestock and their germplasm. This includes zoo and lab animals, and some pet animals.

Check the full list of the animals covered by Balai.

Animals, semen and embryos covered by Balai

Follow this guidance if you’re importing, exporting or moving:

  • simian primates, monkeys and apes
  • prosimian primates, for example lemurs, bushbabies, lorises, aye ayes and tarsiers
  • ungulates (hooved animals) that are not farm animals, for example llamas, alpacas, antelopes, camels, wild pigs, tapirs, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, hippos
  • captive birds and poultry for exhibitions, shows, and contests which are not covered by poultry or bird legislation honey bees
  • jackals, foxes, wolves, African wild dogs, hyaenas
  • bears, for example polar, black, brown, grizzly, pandas or giant pandas
  • raccoons, coatis, and other new world procyonids
  • otters, martens, polecats, badgers, skunks, wolverines
  • non-domestic cats like pumas, cheetahs, lions, tigers and leopards
  • bats, for example vampire bats, flying foxes, fruit bats, gliders
  • flying lemurs and flying squirrels
  • marsupials, for example, koalas, kangaroos, wombats or wallabies
  • possums, bandicoots, bilbys, quolls and Tasmanian devils
  • anteaters, sloths, armadillos
  • shrews, moles and hedgehogs
  • rabbits and hares
  • rodents, for example, gophers, squirrels, mice, rats, hamsters, voles, beavers, gerbils
  • more than 5 pets per traveller in your party or any pets that can’t be joined by their owner within 5 days
  • dogs, cats and ferrets that are being rehomed or don’t meet pet travel rules
  • semen or embryos that are not bovine, porcine or equine

How to move animals that are not for display or conservation

You’ll need to follow separate guidance for:

Talk to your vet if you’re not sure which rules apply to the animals you want to import, export or move.

Importing Balai animals or germplasm to GB from the EU

Imports of live animals, including equines and germinal products from the EU, must be:

You’ll need to give the EU exporter or official veterinarian the unique notification number (UNN) produced by IPAFFS when you pre-notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) about the import. The exporter must add the UNN to the commercial documentation or health certificate.

APHA will continue to carry out identity and physical checks on EU imports of live animals at their destination based on assessments of biosecurity and public health risks until July 2022.

Import germinal products from an EU country from 1 July 2022

From 1 July 2022 germinal products must enter Great Britain at an established point of entry with an appropriate border control post (BCP) for documentary, identity and physical checks.

The level of physical and identity checks from 1 July 2022 will be based on assessments of biosecurity and public health risks.

Import live animals from an EU country from 1 July 2022

Live animals must enter Great Britain through an established point of entry with an appropriate border control post (BCP) from 1 July 2022 for documentary, identity and physical checks.

The level of physical and identity checks will be based on assessments of biosecurity and public health risks.

All high-risk live animals imported from the EU will continue to be checked.

Documents to transport live animals from EU or NI to GB

To transport live animals from the EU to GB, or to NI via GB, transporters must apply for GB-issued:

  • transporter authorisation
  • certificate of competence
  • vehicle approval certificate

GB does not accept EU-issued versions of these documents. You can use EU versions in NI.

Journey logs

You must apply for 2 journey logs for live animal movements from the EU to, or through, GB:

  • one approved by APHA
  • one approved by the EU member state of origin

For more information contact CITCarlisle@apha.gov.uk.

Documents to transport live animals from NI to GB

Transporter authorisation, certificates of competence and vehicle approval certificates issued in NI are valid for use in GB.

For further information on documents to transport live animals, email APHA: CITCarlisle@apha.gov.uk or contact DAERA.

Transiting live animals through GB

Read guidance about moving food containing animal products from one third country to another third country and transiting GB, known as ‘landbridge’ movements.

Import to the UK from non-EU countries

Follow the guidance for importing animals from non-EU countries.

You can’t import any live ungulates (horses, cattle, giraffes, camels, deer, hippopotamuses) or whales and dolphins into the UK from non-EU countries, unless you have an agreement from:

  • APHA if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DAERA if you’re in Northern Ireland

Check the importer information notes to find out the latest information about importing live animals, semen or embryos under the Balai Directive.

Export or move Balai animals or germplasm from GB to the EU and NI

You need an export health certificate (EHC) to:

  • export live Balai animals or germplasm from GB to the EU
  • move live Balai animals or germplasm from GB to NI
  • transit through the EU and NI

You also need to:

Check if you need an EHC

Check the export health certificate (EHC) finder to see if a certificate exists for your animal.

If you find an EHC, follow the EHC process to export.

If you cannot find an EHC, you’ll need to contact the competent authority in the EU country you’re exporting to, in advance, to find out what:

  • paperwork you’ll need to fill in
  • rules you need to comply with

The competent authority means the equivalent of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the EU country you’re exporting to.

If the competent authority says that you need an EHC, you’ll need to get their import conditions. Email the conditions to APHA at exports@apha.gov.uk who’ll arrange an EHC for you.

If you’re moving live animals, semen, ova and embryos to NI, you do not need to pay for them to be inspected and certified. The certifier invoices the government for these costs as part of the Movement Assistance Scheme.

Checks at border and customs offices

You must get your Balai animals or germplasm checked at an EU Border Control Post (BCP) or point of entry in NI.

These checks are made to protect:

  • animal health and welfare
  • public health

Your goods may be refused entry, seized, destroyed or returned to GB if they arrive at:

  • a port in the EU without a BCP where checks cannot be carried out
  • an EU BCP that cannot check your type of animal product
  • an EU BCP without the correct documentation

Find the correct BCP for your goods

You must find a BCP that accepts your type of goods as not all BCPs accept all goods. You’ll need to consider how to redirect your trade route if needed.

There are more than 400 BCPs in the EU and they’re usually at EU ports and airports.

Check the full list of EU BCPs.

Give advance notice to a BCP

All EU BCPs require advance notice of goods arriving. Check with the BCP you’re planning to use for how much notice is needed.

Contact your import agent in the EU to make sure they notify the BCP through the EU’s Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) of the arrival of the consignment. They must do this within the time limits set out by the BCP.

If your live Balai animals or germplasm fail inspection at a BCP

If your goods fail inspection because of risks to animal or public health, they will be destroyed immediately. If the goods fail for other reasons, the BCP will:

  • notify your importer or agent
  • ask them to decide whether your goods should be destroyed or returned to the UK

The BCP will not usually contact you directly.

Rejected goods from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, these consignments rejected at EU BCPs may, subject to a risk assessment, re-enter GB through any point of entry:

  • live animals including equines
  • germinal products

GB importers must submit an import notification on IPAFFS.

Rejected goods are consignments rejected by the competent authority in an EU country. Consignments rejected for commercial reasons cannot be returned as rejected goods.

There are certain documentary requirements to return rejected goods to GB from the EU. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will notify you if the returned consignment needs to enter through a BCP or can enter through any point of entry.

Germinal products: document requirements for rejected goods until 30 June 2022

Apply to APHA Centre for International Trade (CIT) on IPAFFS to return a consignment.

Submit the notification on IPAFFS one working day in advance. In exceptional circumstances, known as ‘logistical constraints’, you can submit the notification at least 4 hours before arrival.

Attach these documents to the IPAFFS notification:

  • a declaration from the EU BCP describing the reason for refusal of entry
  • full details of destination in GB and the intended use or destruction of the returned consignment from the person responsible for the consignment
  • the original export certificate for the returned product
  • a declaration stating that the consignment has remained sealed with an intact original seal or an official seal applied by the EU BCP

If the consignment did not require a veterinary certificate or did not have a certificate for export you must present a commercial invoice or similar that verifies the returned consignment corresponds with the one that was exported.

You must have an official declaration from the EU BCP if the products are any of the following:

  • have been unloaded, stored, re-loaded in the EU
  • the original seal has been replaced
  • not originally exported in a sealed container

The official declaration must state the:

  • place and date of unloading, storage and re-loading and the seal number put on the container after reloading
  • reasons for unloading and storage

The official declaration must confirm that the:

  • seal on the vehicle or container of the consignment was only broken for the purpose of official controls
  • products were handled only to the extent necessary, and in particular at the appropriate temperature
  • products were handled in a way that prevents cross contamination during the official controls vehicle or container was immediately re-sealed after the official controls

APHA will assess these documents to decide the conditions of import and if the consignment will have to be returned through any point of entry or a BCP. APHA will give you an authorisation. You must comply with the conditions of the authorisation.

Returned live animals: document requirements for rejected goods until 30 June 2022

Apply to APHA Centre for International Trade (CIT) on IPAFFS to return a consignment.

Submit the notification on IPAFFS one working day in advance. In exceptional circumstances, known as ‘logistical constraints’, you can submit the notification at least 4 hours before arrival.

Attach these documents to the IPAFFS notification:

  • the original export certificate and related documentation
  • statement from the EU BCP of the reasons why the returned animals were refused by the EU BCP
  • statement from the EU BCP with details of the premises in which the animals were kept since leaving GB, for example in quarantine or in isolation
  • declaration by the person responsible for the returned animals that the import conditions relating to transport have been complied with in relation to the returned animals
  • declaration by the person responsible for the animals that they have not been in contact with any other animal of a lesser health status since leaving GB

APHA will assess this information to decide the conditions of import and if the consignment will have to be returned through any point of entry or a BCP. APHA will give you authorisation. You must comply with the conditions of the authorisation.

Returned goods procedure for germinal products and live animals rejected from an EU BCP from 1 July 2022

Returned goods must enter GB at an appropriately designated BCP for checks on entry:

  • for germinal products from from 1 July 2022
  • for live animals from 1 July 2022

You must notify on IPAFFS and present the relevant documentation to the BCP as set out in the returned goods processes for animal products and live animals.

Documents to transport live animals to the EU or NI

You need EU-issued documents to transport live animals:

  • direct from GB to the EU
  • through the EU to a non-EU country

You should apply to an EU member state where you have representation to get a:

  • transport authorisation
  • certificate of competence
  • vehicle approval certificate

The EU will no longer recognise UK-issued versions of these documents.

You can use GB-issued transporter authorisations, certificates of competence, and vehicle approval certificates in NI.

You can use NI-issued transporter authorisations, certificates of competence, and vehicle approval certificates in GB.

Export Balai animals or germplasm to a non-EU country via NI or the EU

You must have an EHC to transit through NI or the EU.

Check the export health certificate (EHC) finder to see if there’s an EHC for the EU country you’re transiting through. If one exists, you must apply for both the NI and EU EHC, as well as the non-EU EHC.

If an EHC does not exist for NI or the EU country you’re transiting through, you’ll need to contact the competent authority in NI or the EU country to get their import conditions.

Email the conditions to APHA at exports@apha.gov.uk who’ll arrange an EHC for you.

Balai approved or registered premises

Great Britain will continue to register and approve holdings in GB, but it’s likely that the EU will no longer recognise these.

You’ll need to contact the competent authority in NI or the EU country you’re exporting to, to find out what their import conditions are.

Holdings rules that apply to trade between the GB and EU

Follow the guidance in this section to understand the holding rules that apply to trade between the UK and the EU.

If you’re exporting to non-EU countries, your EHC and its supporting documents will contain any requirements for registering or approving your holding.

How to get your premises registered or approved

Whether you need to get your holding registered or approved depends on the animals you want to move and the sites you want to send them to or receive them from. Read the rules in this section to find out what rules apply to the animals on your holding.

To get your holding registered or approved you need to contact:

  • APHA if your holding is in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DAERA if your holding is in NI

If you do not do this, your holding is considered unregistered.

Animals that registered holdings can trade

If your holding is registered, you can only trade the following animals, and only with registered or unregistered holdings in EU member states:

  • ungulates that are not livestock
  • birds that are not commercial poultry
  • rabbits and hares
  • dogs, cats and ferrets that are not pets

You cannot trade with approved holdings.

You need to put rabies-susceptible animals into quarantine.

To register the holding, the owner or manager of the premises must complete the application form and send it to:

  • your local APHA office if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales
  • your local DAERA direct office if you’re in NI

You must run your holding based on the conditions set out on the form.

You’ll be given a registration number which you’ll need to use on your EHCs.

If your holding is unregistered, you can only bring in the following animals from registered or approved holdings in EU member states:

  • ungulates
  • birds
  • rabbits and hares
  • cats, dogs and ferrets that are not pets

Unregistered holdings cannot trade in carnivores or primates.

Animals that approved holdings can trade

If your holding is approved, you can trade carnivores or primates ,semen or embryos as well as the rest of the animals covered by Balai.

Approved holdings must only take in animals from other approved holdings - see a list of approved UK holdings.

You can also contact APHA or DAERA to get a waiver that may allow you to accept rabies-susceptible animals without putting them into quarantine on arrival.

How to get your holding approved

To get your holding approved, fill in form EC3164.

To find your regional veterinary lead in England, Scotland and Wales contact your local APHA office.

Contact your local DAERA direct office if you’re in Northern Ireland.

You also must have your holding inspected by an APHA or DAERA vet - APHA or DAERA will arrange this.

The vet will check your holding to make sure that it has:

  • secure boundaries separating it from the surrounding area, such as walls, fences or other barriers
  • equipment, facilities and staff to catch, confine and isolate animals
  • quarantine facilities where you can isolate and test animals that come from non-approved holdings
  • a surveillance programme for incoming animals that’s been agreed with your vet
  • a clean and separated facility for carrying out post-mortems
  • a system for disposing of carcasses that’s been agreed with your vet

You also must make sure you:

  • keep records of animals’ age, sex, species, blood tests, and diseases
  • employ an official veterinarian, or a centre veterinarian authorised by APHA or DAERA - you can search online or contact csconehealthovteam@apha.gov.uk to find one

You’ll be given an approval number to use on your EHCs.

Moving animals from approved holdings to registered holdings

If you want to move animals from an approved holding to a registered holding, you must contact either:

  • the APHA if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales
  • your local DAERA direct office if you’re in Northern Ireland

Re-inspection for approved holdings

If your holding is approved, it must pass an annual re-inspection, carried out by a vet - they’ll check it still meets the approval conditions.

It’s your responsibility to make sure your holding is annually re-inspected and re-approved, but the vet will usually contact you to arrange this.

When approval gets suspended

If your approval is removed, you’ll no longer be able to trade animals with other approved holdings.

Diseases on holdings

Your local APHA or DAERA office will temporarily suspend your holding’s approval if they find cases of:

  • any notifiable disease
  • viral enteritis or aleutian disease in mink
  • tuberculosis in apes and non-domestic cats
  • European foulbrood, varroasis or acariasis in bees
  • myxomatosis, viral haemorraghic disease, tularaemia in rabbits and hares

Breaking approval conditions

APHA or DAERA can also suspend your approval if your holding no longer meets any one of the approval conditions.

The length of time APHA or DAERA suspends your approval for depends on the reason for the suspension. You’ll be given time to fix the problem. If you don’t do this APHA or DAERA may withdraw your approval.

When approval gets withdrawn

If you cannot prove to APHA or DAERA that your holding has fixed the problem which led to suspension, your approval may be withdrawn.

Approval for a holding will always be suspended before it’s withdrawn.

Licences you may need

If your holding is approved or registered, you may still need licences.

Dangerous wild animals

You must apply for a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 if you keep:

  • primates
  • wild cats
  • wild dogs or wolves
  • wild boar
  • marsupials, for example kangaroos, wallabies, wombats

Endangered species

If you’re moving endangered species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), you’ll need a permit from APHA.

The APHA will decide whether to issue a permit based on the endangered status of the animals you’re bringing in and where they’re coming from.

Bringing in rabies-susceptible animals to the UK

Find out how to bring rabies-susceptible animals into the UK.

Published 11 March 2015
Last updated 14 September 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated with new dates for the introduction of controls on imports of live animals and germinal products covered by Balai rules.

  2. Updated with new dates for when you’ll need to pre-notify imports from the EU and for when they need to enter Great Britain through a Border Control Post (BCP).

  3. Updated with guidance on how to comply with rules from 1 January 2021.

  4. Information added to explain change in exports process from 1 Jan 2021.

  5. Added in steps on how to get an intra trade animal health certificate. Updated details on how to contact APHA for help.

  6. Updated info on Brexit deal.

  7. Added a section on what to do in a no-deal Brexit.

  8. First published.