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Import and exports of animals and animal products represent an important and significant contribution to the UK economy – but they can also bring with them the risk of animal diseases. Imports are therefore subject to strict controls at the UK border under EU and national rules.

International trade is often subject to complex government negotiations. Defra, as the recognised UK lead department for international trade, facilitates UK exports of animals and animal products.

There are different importation requirements, depending on whether you are importing into the UK or importing into overseas countries. Further advice is available from the DEFRA website. Here you will find an authoritative source of information on the health conditions for international trade in live animals and animal products to, from or through Great Britain.

Importation into the UK of Pet Animals

Quarantine regulations are still in force in the UK and it is illegal to disobey them.

The importation of pets (dogs, cats, ferrets, pet rabbits and rodents) into the UK is strictly controlled and it is essential that anyone intending to import a pet should obtain the latest information by contacting the Pet Travel Scheme Helpline on Telephone Number 0870 241 1710.

The regulations about quarantine are found in The Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and other Mammals) Order 1974 (as amended).

The order provides for an animal landed without a licence to be either directed to quarantine, re-exported or destroyed and its owner prosecuted. Serious offences may be tried on indictment at a Crown Court where offenders are liable to penalties of up to a year's imprisonment an unlimited fine or both. It is thus important to ensure that all the licensing requirements are met.

Further information can be obtained from DEFRA - Travelling with pets.

Kennels and Catteries

If you decide to travel without your pets and to book them into a kennel or cattery then you are advised to research and visit the premises and book your pet in early, as kennels and catteries are very popular. You can talk to other pet owners and see which premises they recommend or talk to other experts such as vets and breeders. You should agree all costs in advance and make sure that they cover all possible eventualities. The RSPCA can provide a list of quarantine kennels / catteries.

Importation into overseas countries

Regulations for the importation of animals into overseas locations vary, depending on the country concerned. Before you move overseas you are advised to obtain further information from DEFRA - Imports/exports – animals and animal products.

Contact Details

  • Name Environmental Safety and Health
  • Address People Directorate, 3-5 St James's Road, Dudley, DY1 1HZ
  • Telephone 0300 555 2345