Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Checks on the imports of live animals

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Languages and formats available
HTML html ES html DE html EN html FR html IT
Multilingual display

Checks on the imports of live animals

The European Union (EU) lays down procedures for veterinary checks on animals entering the Community from third countries. These checks are carried out at the EU’s border inspection posts on each consignment of live animals.


Council Directive 91/496/EEC of 15 July 1991 laying down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on animals entering the Community from third countries and amending Directives 89/662/EEC, 90/425/EEC and 90/675/EEC [See amending acts].


The Directive defines the arrangements for the external border checks and for the internal movement of live animals from third countries. It is supplemented by Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on the official feed and food controls.

Veterinary checks

All consignments of live animals from a third country are subject to the veterinary checks required by this Directive before they can be introduced into the European Union (EU). These checks are carried out at border inspections posts by the competent authority under the responsibility of the official veterinarian. These checks include:

  • a documentary check: verification of the certificates or veterinary documents accompanying each consignment of animals;
  • an identity check: verification by visual inspection only for consistency between the documents or certificates and the animals and for the presence and conformity of the marks which must appear on the animals;
  • a physical check: a check of the animal itself, possibly including sampling and laboratory testing and, where appropriate, additional checks during quarantine.

The Directive lays down the rules for the checks to be complied with and the procedures to be followed for placing live animals in quarantine. Furthermore, specific provisions are provided by Commission Decision 97/794/EC of 12 November 1997 for documentary checks, identity checks and physical checks.

When the veterinary import conditions are respected and there is no danger to public or animal health, the official veterinarian responsible for the border inspection post shall issue a certificate. This certificate is produced in accordance with the template provided in the Annex to Commission Regulation (EC) No 282/2004 of 18 February 2004 related to introducing a document for the declaration of, and veterinary checks on, animals from third countries entering the EU.

The Directive provides the procedure to be implemented when the checks reveal that an animal does not meet the conditions set by European regulation or if there is an irregularity with the consignment.

Border inspection posts

The Directive sets the conditions which the border inspection posts (BIPs) must meet in order to be approved by the Commission. The latter publishes the list of approved BIPs in the Official Journal.

Information systems

The Commission introduces an information exchange which links the border inspection services and the Member States’ veterinary authorities with the Commission’s TRACES system. This information exchange system, which includes all the elements concerning the importation and transit of animals from third countries, replaced the SHIFT system as of 2003.

The transit of animals from third countries

The Directive sets the conditions for the transportation of animals from a third country to another third country. Animals which are transported across European Union territory must meet the conditions laid down in European legislation. If necessary, the competent authority can decide to place them in quarantine, or arrange for their re-exportation or slaughter.

Safeguard measures

In the case of a disease occurring on the territory of a third country which represents a serious threat to animals or human health, the Commission may prohibit the importation of animals from the country in question or set special conditions to their importation or transit.


Veterinary experts from the Commission, in conjunction with Member States’ competent authorities, shall verify that the border inspection posts and quarantine stations satisfy the approval requirements. The Commission informs Member States of the results of the inspections carried out.

Committee procedure

The Commission is assisted in its task by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 91/496/EEC


1.12.1991 (Articles 6, 13, 18, 21)1.7.1992 (other provisions)

OJ L 268, 24.9.1991

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision No 92/438/EEC



OJ L 243, 25.8.1992

Directive 96/43/EC



OJ L 162, 1.7.1996

Treaty of Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia



OJ L 236, 23.9.2003

Decision 2006/104/EC



OJ L 363, 20.12.2006

Directive 2008/73/EC



OJ L 219, 14.8.2008

Directive 2009/156/EC



OJ L 192, 23.7.2010

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 91/496/EEC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Decision 2009/821/EC of 28 September 2009 drawing up a list of approved border inspection posts, laying down certain rules on the inspections carried out by Commission veterinary experts and laying down the veterinary units in Traces [Official Journal L 296 of 12.11.2009].

Commission Decision 2007/275/EC of 17 April 2007 concerning lists of animals and products to be subject to controls at border inspection posts under Council Directives 91/496/EEC and 97/78/EC [Official Journal L 116 of 4.5.2007].

See also

Last updated: 09.05.2011