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Equine Animals

The number of equine animals or equidae in the European Union is small, probably not many more than 6 millions, compared to hundreds of millions of other livestock. To keep, breed and use equidae - first and foremost horses - is labour intensive and it represents a source of income for a part of the farming community.

However, equidae, and in particular horses, are very mobile compared to other livestock, and in many cases they represent as an individual an enormous economic and emotional value. The reoccurrence of major equine infectious diseases which, if they had ever occurred, were successfully eradicated in Member States would seriously compromise the rational development of equidae production and intra-Union trade in such animals.

Definition and general animal health conditions

The animal health conditions governing the movement of equidae (equine animals) between Member States and their importation from non-EU countries are laid down in Council Directive 2009/156/EC.

This Directive provides the definition for equine animals or equidae. They can be: odd-toed ungulates - whether wild or domesticated - namely horses, donkeys (including Asian wild asses), zebras and their crossings.

Categories of equidae

  • Registered equidae, which are registered in studbooks established in accordance with Council Directive 90/427/EEC laying down the zootechnical and genealogical conditions governing intra-Union trade in equidae, or with international organisations managing competitions
  • Equidae for slaughter, which are destined to be transported to a slaughterhouse, and
  • Equidae for breeding and production, which are all the other equidae not defined as registered equidae or equidae for slaughter.

Intra-Union trade

Directive 2009/156/EC provides for the obligation of keepers to notify to the authorities any suspect of 8 specified diseases. Equidae moving on the territory of a Member State or traded between Member States must come from areas free of African horse sickness and premises free of major equine diseases (such as glanders and dourine) but also equine infectious anaemia and any type of equine encephalomyelitis.

Equidae born in the Union shall be identified by an identification document (passport).

As of 1 January 2016, equidae must be identified in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/262.

Non-registered equidae must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate and registered equidae by an attestation which does not specify the destination of the movement, thus allowing, for example, participation in consecutive competitions at different places during the 10 days period of validity of that attestation.




Before a non-EU country is authorised to export horses into the EU, the Commission's carries out an audit to verify that the animal health guarantees in regard to equidae in a non-EU country (as provided for in Directive 2009/156/EC) are properly fulfilled.

Authorised countries

A non-EU country may only export equidae into the European Union if that non-EU country or region thereof is added - based on the principles contained in Council Directive 2009/156/EEC and on the results of the audit - to the list of non-EU countries or regions thereof authorised for the export of live equidae, their semen, ova and embryos. The list is laid down in Commission Decision 2004/211/EC specifying the sanitary group to which the exporting country or region thereof is assigned in order to use the established health certificates.

Different types of imports

Imports may be of three different types and the animal health conditions and the veterinary certification are laid down as follows:
  • Temporary admission for less than 90 days of registered horses (Decision 92/260/EEC)
  • Re-entry of registered horses for racing, competition and cultural events after temporary export, as a rule 30 days, to approved non-EU countries (Decision 93/195/EEC)
  • Imports of:
    • equidae for slaughter, respectively with or without passing through a marshalling centre (Decision 93/196/EEC)
    • registered equidae and equidae for breeding and production (Decision 93/197/EEC).

Diseases assessment

The import conditions are based on country's freedom from African horse sickness and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, glanders and dourine. In the case of vesicular stomatitis and equine viral arteritis country-freedom may be compensated by absence of disease on the holding of origin and testing during isolation.

Depending on the prevailing risks of disease introduction through imports, the non-EU countries approved for export are assigned to sanitary groups for each of which additional residence, quarantine, test and vaccination requirements are specified. For example, countries that had a history of African horse sickness use the same model certificate and are in a distinct sanitary group to countries which are at risk of Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis.

Border inspections

Live animals entering the European Union are inspected at a Border Inspection Post (BIP) - as listed in Commission Decision 2009/821/EC (Council Directive 91/496/EEC down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on animals entering the European Union from non-EU countries).

Transit of animals

Where equidae transit the European Union on their way from one non-EU country to another, Commission Decision 2010/57/EU lays down the animal health conditions and veterinary certification, which are based on the respective requirements for temporary admission.