Customs clearance for animals and animal products

The Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) is an online system that makes it easier for importers and exporters to provide health certification and track consignments of animals or animal products.


If you trade internationally in animals and certain animal products you need to follow particular animal health regulations. While these products are traded freely within the EU, responsibility lies with each member state to ensure that products meet common animal and public health standards.

The Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) is a web-based system run by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection. It aims to make the paperwork for trading in animals and animal products easier by generating the necessary documents and sending copies to the appropriate authorities inland and abroad, saving traders time and effort. The system allows traders to obtain export health certificates and movement notifications of their dispatches. It helps the authorities to meet health regulations and traders’ needs.

This information is aimed at those who trade within the EU and at importers who import from outside the EU. It explains what TRACES is and how to register.

For more information on animals and animal products see our guides on Animals and animal products: international trade regulations and Border Inspection Posts for live animals and animal products.

What TRACES does

If you trade internationally in animals or certain animal products, the documentation you need to submit is processed through TRACES.

EU documentation processed through TRACES

If you buy certain animal products, live animals or germplasm from within the EU or trade in them with another EU country, you need a health certificate signed by a government-approved official veterinarian or, for some animal products, commercial documentation. The health certificates, known as Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates (ITAHCs), are issued through TRACES and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) at the Specialist Service Centre for Exports (SSCE) in Carlisle. Find contact details for the SSCE on the AHVLA website.

Download guidance on how to complete an ITAHC on the AHVLA website.

Importers may also need a Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED), which gives a veterinary assessment of live animals or products. See our guide on overseas veterinary certificates and Border Inspection Posts.

For trade with another EU member state, you or your agent must provide details of the consignment to your local AHVLA office. The AHVLA - which is an agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - provides details of the veterinary assessment on the consignment and creates the certificate. Imports are notified through TRACES and details of the ITAHC are also entered on the system. For contact details of your local AHVLA Office, go to the AHVLA website.

Non-EU documentation processed through TRACES

If you trade in animals or certain animal products from outside the EU you will need to notify the Border Inspection Post (BIP) by completing documentation on the TRACES system. Certain non-EU countries including Switzerland, Chile and New Zealand access health certificates for import into the EU and submit them electronically through TRACES.

Animals and animal products cleared through TRACES

The system covers several types of animal and animal product, including:

  • germplasm, eg semen, ova and embryos of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses
  • types of poultry, eg hatching eggs, day-old chicks, poultry for re-stocking game supplies and birds for breeding, production and slaughter
  • live animals, eg horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, parrots, hares and certain species of non-domestic ungulates
  • primates
  • carnivores, eg dogs and cats (excluding accompanied PETS-compliant animals)

If you import products of animal origin from outside the EU you must notify the BIP that goods are arriving. This is achieved by completing part I of a CVED on TRACES. When you complete and submit this document online you will be issued a unique CVED reference number. You will need to provide this number to customs authorities to demonstrate that you have notified the BIP and to allow subsequent release.

Exports to non-EU member states (and some exports to Switzerland and Norway) are processed through a different system called CENTAUR (Certification of Exports, Notification of Trade and Assessment of Underlying Risk), but all enquiries and applications to export should be directed to the SSCE.

TRACES is not yet able to handle health certification issued by countries outside the EU. You will need to submit these documents in hard-copy form to the BIP.

Note: if for any reason you are unable to notify the BIP of the arrival of the goods using TRACES you must send a copy of a completed CVED, part I, to the BIP. Failure to pre-notify the BIP of the arrival of the goods may result in the goods being rejected for import. If the goods are rejected you will have to have them destroyed or returned to the country of origin at your own expense.

Registering for TRACES

You need to register to start using TRACES. Your single registration on TRACES will be either for trading within the EU or for importing from non-EU countries. You cannot register for both with the same email address.

There’s no charge for using the system. If your business is a large company with several sites you may have to register with the relevant AHVLA office in each of your branch areas.

Find your local AHVLA office on the AHVLA website.

EU imports

You can register for TRACES online.

If you want to trade within the EU you should fill out the fields for Competent Authority, which in the UK is the local AHVLA office.

Once your registration to trade with other EU countries has been confirmed you can then apply for an ITAHC via the TRACES website.

Non-EU imports

If you want to import from outside the EU you should fill out the fields for BIP.

Once your registration as an importer of non-EU goods has been confirmed you can then apply for a Common Veterinary Entry Document via the TRACES website.

A single registration with a BIP is sufficient to import via any BIP.


If you trade in certain animal products, certain live animals or germplasm with a EU member state, you need an ITAHC.

Applying for an ITAHC

After registration for TRACES you can apply to the Specialist Service Centre for Exports (SSCE) in Carlisle for an ITAHC via the TRACES website. Complete Part I of the ITAHC online, electronically sign it and then submit it to the SSCE. Allow at least ten working days for the certificate to be issued to your Official Veterinarian (OV).

You can also apply for an ITAHC by manually completing a printed form and sending this through to the SSCE who will then input this into TRACES.

Find contact details for the SSCE on the AHVLA website.

Action for OVs on completion of ITAHCs

You must fax or deliver a copy of the completed ITAHC and TRACES-CONF document to the SSCE in Carlisle the same day the ITAHC is signed. The fax number for the SSCE is 01228 591900. To avoid delays, or the goods being seized or rejected, it’s important to get the right ITAHC for a consignment. Detailed guidance on how to certify the health statements is given in the Notes for Guidance which are supplied with the ITAHC, as well as the checklist (where necessary) and the footnotes above the signature box.

Download guidance on how to complete an ITAHC on the AHVLA website.

How the authorities use TRACES

Veterinary authorities from the UK and abroad use TRACES to track the movement of consignments across Europe.

The system sends the ITAHC via TRACES as a notification to the destination authorities for each consignment.

For third-country (countries outside the EU) imports, the importer can use TRACES to notify the Border Inspection Post.

You will need to notify HMRC that veterinary checks have been completed for third-country imports or your customs entry will not be processed.

Further information

Defra helpline

08459 33 55 77

AHVLA office contact details

Export controls for animals and animal products to the EU information on the archived Defra website

Imports of animals and animal products guidance

Import veterinary checks information on the archived Defra website

SSCE contact details on the AHVLA website

Published 27 July 2012
Last updated 13 June 2013 + show all updates
  1. Fixing references to specialist guides
  2. First published.