There is a difference between moving companion animals across borders for trade purposes or for personal reasons (non-commercial movement). EU legislation exists for both types of movement, however it is not always specific enough to efficiently fight illegal trade in companion animals.
Trade of companion animals is therefore often disguised as non-commercial movement of pets.
Non-commercial movement of cats and dogs as owned pets into a Member State from another Member State, territory or third country is regulated in Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 on the non-commercial movement of pet animals and repealing Regulation (EC) No 998/2003. The Regulation will apply until repealed by Regulation (EU) 2016/429 (Animal Health Law) in 2026. It applies:
- To the private, non-commercial movement of pets moving with their owner under his/her direct responsibility, or that of a natural person authorized in writing by the owner to accompany them within five days from the owner’s movement.
- To the movement of no more than five animals, unless there is written proof that these will participate at a competition, exhibition, sport event or training and are above six months old
It does not apply:
- To the internal movement of pets within a Member State
- To the movement of pets within a period exceeding the five days from the owner’s movement
- To the movement of pets that is not caused by the movement of the owner
- To the movement of over five animals, for which both the written proof of participation at a competition, exhibition, sport event or training and age limit of six months old are not met
The Regulation sets several requirements for an animal to be moved:
- It needs to be identified with a transponder (microchip), compliant with ISO 11784 and applying HDX or FDX-B technology, and capable of being read by a scanner compatible with ISO 11785 (technical specifications laid down in Annex II).
- It needs to be vaccinated against rabies by an authorized vet in accordance with several conditions (laid down in Annex III).
- It needs to be accompanied by a Pet Passport (model in Part 1 of Annex III to Commission Implementing (EU) No 577/2013) completed and issued by an authorized veterinarian.
There are additional requirements to enter the EU from a third country or territory.
Movements of cats and dogs that cannot happen under the rules for non-commercial movement are now subject to Regulation (EU) 2016/429 and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/2035. Such rules apply:
- To the entry to the EU and intra-Union movement aiming at the sale of dogs and cats
- To the movement of over five animals for which for which both the written proof of participation at a competition, exhibition, sport event or training and age limit of six months old are not met
- To the movement of animals that is not caused by that of the owner or that happens in a period of over five days from the day of the owner’s movement
- To the imports and cross-border movement aiming at the rehoming of dogs and cats, as the activity entails transfer of ownership. DG SANTE published this Working document on re-homing of pets: issues detected in trade to clarify issues between the rehoming of pets abroad and TRACES.
They do not apply:
- To the sale of animals within a Member State
- To the rehoming of animals within a Member State
Further, the animal is required to be:
- Coming from breeding and keeping holdings or businesses that are listed (registered or approved) with the competent authority, are not subject to any ban on health grounds, have the animals regularly examined, notify possible outbreaks, and comply with the animal’s health and welfare requirements
- Submitted to a clinical examination within 48 hours prior to dispatch by an authorized vet, who must verify that they show no signs of disease and are fit to be transported (in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1/2005)
- Carrying a health certificate issued by an official vet of the country of dispatch, stating the registration number of the holding or business of origin and Passport number of the animal, attesting the clinical examination was carried out and notifying the movement through TRACES.
In February 2020, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on protecting the EU’s internal market and consumer rights against the negative implications of the illegal trade in companion animals. This Resolution is the Parliament’s repeated call to the Commission in support of EU-wide Identification and Registration for companion animals as well as for regulation of the online pet trade and seller traceability. It contained several key asks to the EC to help achieve full traceability in the online pet trade across the EU, and to bring the “Model Solution” for ending the illegal online puppy trade to fruition.