Guidance

Importing non-native animals

How to apply for a licence to import, release or keep non-native animals.

You must follow the rules if you’re importing non-native animals into the UK or planning to keep them in the UK, including pets and any animals you’ve bought or intend to sell. You may need more than one licence depending on your circumstances.

You can be fined or prosecuted if you:

  • allow any non-native animal to escape into the wild in the UK
  • release any non-native animal without a licence to do so
  • keep some non-native animals without the right licence

Non-native animals are any animals which have been deliberately or accidentally introduced into the UK.

Non-native animals can be any of the following:

  • mammals
  • birds
  • reptiles
  • amphibians
  • fish
  • insects and other invertebrates, eg spiders

The importing rules you’ll have to follow will vary depending on the country of origin for any animal and whether the animal or activity is covered by the:

  • Balai Directive
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  • EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation

You should:

Import non-native animals

You must apply for a licence to import any non-native animal into the UK.

Fill in the licence application form for importing live animals.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will use the information you provide on the licence form to decide if any animals you’re importing need to be quarantined.

Contact APHA to find out:

  • if you’re eligible to apply for a licence
  • how long a licence lasts for
  • what happens if you lose your licence

When you have to quarantine non-native animals before importing them

You may have to put the animal in quarantine in the UK, depending on the species of non-native animal.

APHA will use the information you provide on the licence form to decide if any animals you’re importing need to be quarantined.

APHA will contact you if your animal needs to be quarantined.

You must arrange any quarantine needed before you arrive in the UK.

You must usually put any non-native mammal you’re importing into quarantine for:

  • 4 months before you bring it into England or Wales
  • 4 months or less if you bring it into Scotland, depending on your situation

Contact APHA to find out more about putting non-native animals into quarantine:

Apply for export and import licences for some non-native animals

You must apply for export and import licences for certain animals in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) if you’re importing them from outside the EU.

Contact the APHA Centre for International Trade to find out more about CITES licences:

Apply for a permit for species covered by the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation

You may need a permit to allow certain activities for species covered by the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation. You can apply for a permit to move or use these species.

Keep non-native animals

Read the guidance if you want to apply for a licence to keep a non-native animal that’s a:

From 3 August 2016 you may also need a permit for species covered by the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation. More details will be published soon.

Get a licence to release non-native animals

You must not allow any non-native animal to escape into the wild.

You must apply for a release licence to release non-native animals into the wild.

Find out how to limit the effects of non-native species on human health and UK wildlife.

Published 30 September 2015
Last updated 17 August 2016 + show all updates
  1. Added link to permit application for moving or using species covered by the EU regulation 1143/2014 on invasive alien species.
  2. Added information about the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation.
  3. First published.