Animals and animal products are imported from EU member states and from third countries approved as having equivalent animal health status to an EU member state for the species in question. Strict EU rules are imposed to prevent disease entering the European Community.
As soon as an animal is captured and transported it becomes a ‘kept animal’ and therefore animal health import legislation applies. This includes ensuring a veterinary health check is undertaken within the 24-hour period prior to loading at the country of origin in order to determine that no clinical signs of disease are present—the cost is met by the importer. An animal cannot travel to this country unless accompanied by a valid veterinary health certificate. Live animals imported from approved third countries must enter at a designated Border Inspection Post (BIP) where they are again subject to veterinary inspections for clinical signs of disease and the accompanying health certificates are verified. However, Animal Health does not keep a record of the individual costs for imported animals tested as part of its disease prevention measures.
When there is a significant increase in disease risk, DEFRA's Global Animal Health Division will act quickly to mitigate it, usually in concert with the EU. DEFRA may take unilateral safeguard measures to block legal imports from countries or regions with outbreaks of disease. Recent imports of animals which might present a risk would also be traced and checked.
DEFRA also carries out international disease surveillance work and takes emergency safeguard action to restrict or ban imports from countries that have reported an outbreak of disease.