Full Title Name:  The Regulation and Protection of Animals Kept for Companionship: A Critical Analysis and Comparative Perspective (Chap. 4)

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Lorraine Poole Place of Publication:  University of Malta Publish Year:  2007 Primary Citation:  Faculty of Laws, University of Malta 0 Country of Origin:  Malta

This chapter accompanies the thesis from Malta entitled, "The Regulation and Protection of Animals Kept for Companionship: A Critical Analysis and Comparative Perspective." Chapter 4 examines the movement of companion animals into and out of the EU. The chapter specifically explores the new concept of “pet passports” for individuals traveling with companion animals.






Owing to development in several spheres, ranging from technological to economic to political, travelling from one country to another has become an ordinary part of life. And because companion animals commonly constitute a significant element of their owners’ lives it may be natural for them to want to take their animals with them when they travel for a temporary but generally substantial (it may be more practical to leave an animal with a friend if the owner will be returning in a matter of days) period of time or if they choose to move to another country permanently.

Because the movement of these companion animals may be accompanied by the concurrent movement of viruses or other undesirable organisms living within the body of the animal there are health requirements that have to be satisfied before the animal is permitted to travel. This is acceptable on public health grounds and will ensure that the receiving country will not be exposed to diseases it has thus far eradicated or is attempting to.

The harmonisation of the animal health requirements applicable to the non-commercial movement of pet animals was sought by the introduction of Regulation (EC) No 998/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of the 26th May 2003 (hereafter referred to as Regulation 998/2003). Community legislation was chosen as the way forward because it was felt that only measures adopted at Community level could adequately accomplish this objective. It is binding in its entirety and has been directly applicable in all Member States since the 3rd of July of 2003. [1]

For the purposes of Regulation 998/2003 movement means any movement of a pet animal between Member States or its entry or re-entry into the territory of the Community from a third country. [2]

According to article 2 the pet animals this piece of legislation applies to are those listed in Annex 1. These are dogs and cats (Part A), ferrets (Part B) and invertebrates (except bees and crustaceans), ornamental tropical fish, amphibia, reptiles, birds (except poultry), rodents and domestic rabbits (Part C).

4.1.1         Movement between Member States

The pet animal must always be accompanied by the owner or a natural person responsible for it on behalf of the owner and the movement cannot have the purpose of selling the animal or of transferring the animal to another owner. [3]


For an animal listed in Part A and Part B of Annex 1 (a cat, dog or ferret) to move between Member States it must be identified in accordance with article 4 of Regulation 998/2003 [4] which provides two alternative methods.

For a transitional period lasting until the 3rd of July 2011 [5] cats, dogs and ferrets may be identified either by a clearly readable tattoo or by an electronic identification system (a transponder). Once this period expires the latter will be the only accepted means of identification. The transponder or microchip implanted beneath the skin of the animal ought to comply with ISO standard 11784 or with Annex A to ISO Standard 11785 and the authorities in charge of reading the transponder at the time of movement will possess apparatus compatible with these standards. If it does not comply with the said standards it will be encumbent upon the owner or person responsible for the animal on behalf of the owner to provide an instrument capable of reading the transponder at any inspection of the same.

Malta has not needed to avail itself of the transitional period because the only means of identification accepted for entry into our territory is an electronic identification system, as was also the case prior to accession to the European Union under the Pet Travel Scheme [6] . Ireland and the United Kingdom will likewise refuse entry if the cat, dog or ferret has a tattoo and not a transponder.

The Pet Passport and health requirements

In order to move within the European Union cats, dogs and ferrets must also have a passport issued by a veterinarian confirming a valid antirabies vaccination carried out with an inactivated vaccine of at least one antigenic unit per dose which is the WHO standard. [7]

To be vaccinated against rabies animals must be at least three months old but unexpectedly animals under this age are not necessarily impeded from movement. Under article 5(2) Member States may authorise the movement of cats, dogs and ferrets which are under three months old and thus certainly unvaccinated for rabies, provided that they are accompanied by a passport and subject to the condition that they have stayed in the place in which they were born since birth without contact with wild animals likely to have been exposed to the infection or are accompanied by their mothers on whom they are still dependent.

Article 6 contains a further requirement which is specific to cats and dogs entering Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom and will be applicable until the 3rd of July of 2008 [8] .

In addition to being accompanied by a passport certifying that a valid antirabies vaccination has been carried out with an inactivated vaccine of at least one antigenic unit per dose, to enter one of these territories the passport must also certify a neutralising antibody titration at least equal to 0,5 IU/ml carried out in an approved laboratory on a sample within the periods laid down in national rules in force on the 3rd of July of 2003. This antibody titration will not have to be repeated if the animal is regularly revaccinated without a break in the vaccination protocol required by the manufacturing laboratory.

Though Malta is not specified in the Regulation with regards to this requirement [9] the additional neutralising antibody titration is also obligatory for cats and dogs entering our country from other Member States. The purpose of this sieroneutralization titre test is to make sure that the antirabies vaccination has given the animal adequate protection against rabies. If the vaccination has been effective the result of the blood test will be equal to or greater than 0,5 IU/ml and the animal will be allowed entry into Malta, provided all other conditions are also satisfied. The six month rule applies to entry. This means that the companion animal cannot enter the country until at least six months after the date on which the veterinarian took the blood sample that gave a satisfactory sieroneutralization titre test result. This is because while the incubation period of an animal that has contracted rabies is not always the same, an infected dog or cat would definitely display clinical signs of rabies within six months, at which point entry would clearly be denied.

Once vaccinated and blood tested the animal will need regular booster vaccinations. The Food and Veterinary Regulation Division requires the booster vaccination to be given prior to the date that it is due, otherwise the cat or dog will have to be re vaccinated and blood tested again and the six month rule will apply.

Ireland , Sweden and the United Kingdom are entitled under article 6 to exempt pet animals moving between their territories from the vaccination and antibody titration requirements in accordance with national rules in force on the 3rd of July of 2003. [10] Dogs and cats under three months old though cannot be moved before they have reached the age for vaccination and have had an antibody titration test where required, unless the competent authorities grant a derogation with regards to specific cases.

Above and beyond complying with stringent rabies-related requirements, to enter Malta a cat, dog or ferret must also be treated with praziquantel for tapeworm and with fiprinol for ticks by a veterinarian twenty-four to forty-eight hours prior to entry into the country. The specific product used, the date and the time of treatment must be noted in the Pet Passport by the veterinarian. If the animal has not been treated for tapeworm and ticks or if it appears that different chemicals from those stated have been used the animal will inevitably be taken to the Small Animals Quarantine facilities in Luqa where it will be given the correct treatment and released to its owner forty-eight hours later. Ireland and the United Kingdom also request treatment for tapeworm and ticks prior to entry.

As to what the Pet Passport containing all the relevant information and certification of vaccinations looks like, a model passport for the intra-Community movement of dogs, cats and ferrets was established by Commission Decision of the 26th November 2003 [11] .

All Pet Passports issued within the European Union must be uniform and in accordance with the specific requirements laid down in this Commission Decision regarding size, colour and wording on the cover, the order of sections, the numbering of pages and language, which must either be that of the issuing Member State or English. Article 4 gives the date of application of this Decision as the 3rd of July 2004 so that from that date onwards the Pet Passport was intended to be the only document issued by Member States for movement within their territories. The model passport is set out in the first Annex to the Decision and is reproduced in Appendix 1 of this work.

Before the introduction of the Pet Passport in Malta on the 1st of October 2004 cats and dogs entering Malta had to be accompanied by a Pet Travel Scheme Certificate which, like the Pet Passport, was used to identify the animal and confirm that the necessary health requirements had been fulfilled. Despite the substitution of the document, the stipulations found under the Pet Travel Scheme (as described in Legal Notice 169/2001) are still applicable. The requirements for entry into Malta from another Member State are those that were obligatory under the Pet Travel Scheme, so in reality only the official name of the document has changed.

Apart from cats, dogs and ferrets Regulation 998/2003 also contemplates i nvertebrates (not being bees and crustaceans), ornamental tropical fish, amphibia, reptiles, birds (but not poultry), rodents and domestic rabbits which may also be companion animals, particularly the rodents and domestic rabbits.

There is no Pet Passport for these animals and they are not subject to any requirements with regard to rabies when moving between Member States or when moving into a Member State from Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland or The Vatican. [12]

4.1.2         Movement into Malta from third countries

The movement of cats and dogs into Malta from third countries must comply with Legal Notice 169 of 2001 because the Pet Travel Scheme Regulations continue to apply to such movement even though our country has since acceded to the European Union. Having seen the requirements that must be met before an animal can enter Malta from another Member State one would expect the conditions for entry from third countries to be equally as stringent at minimum, and it appears that they are.

The animal must be identified by means of an electronic transponder or microchip [13] and following implantation of this device the animal must be given certain vaccinations and treatment to ensure its health status complies with the requirements laid down in the Pet Travel Scheme Regulations.

A cat or dog must have been vaccinated against rabies with an inactivated vaccine approved by the competent authority of the country in which the vaccination is given [14] . The antirabies vaccination must be administered in an accepted country. These are those listed in the Second Schedule to the Regulations (which shall hereafter be referred to as qualifying countries insofar as they are countries that qualify for the Pet Travel Scheme) and are reproduced in Appendix 2. This vaccination must be followed by booster injections at the intervals specified by the manufacturer of the vaccine [15] .

To be positive that the vaccine has been effectual a blood sample must be tested for rabies antibodies using a virus neutralisation test which ought to give a titre of at least 0,5 international units per millilitre. This must be done at least six months prior to entry of the animal to Malta to be calculated from the date on which the blood sample was taken. [16]

Further to this the cat or dog must also have been treated against Echinococcus multilocularis (tapeworm) with prazinquantel and ticks between twenty-four and forty-eight hours before leaving for Malta [17] . Treatment need not be given in one of the countries specified in the Second Schedule so long as it done by a veterinary surgeon entitled to practise veterinary medicine in the country in which the treatment is administered.

Thus both the identification and the health requirements for movement into Malta from qualifying third countries are equivalent to those imposed for entry from Member States. It is also imperative that the animal has not been outside of Malta or a qualifying country in the six month period immediately preceding the date on which the animal attempts to enter Malta [18] on account of the fact that the rabies status of a non-qualifying country may be doubtful, which may explain why the country did not make it onto the list of qualifying countries in the first place.

Whereas a cat or dog moving into Malta from another Member State will certainly be accompanied by a Pet Passport, this is less probable with regards to a cat or dog entering from a qualifying third country. As is evident from the list of qualifying countries, some are indeed Member States and so will have and ought to travel with a Pet Passport but for the others alternative documentation must be drawn up and presented to certify that all conditions for entry have been adhered to.

Section 7 of the Pet Travel Scheme Regulations requires the cat or dog to be accompanied by two official health certificates [19] .

The first is to certify that the antirabies requirements have been met and should be accompanied by a copy of the sieroneutralization titre test result. The official veterinary surgeon in the qualifying country must sign and stamp the document. It must also contain the information specified in the Third Schedule to the Regulations, that is the period of validity of the certificate, the number and location of the microchip, a declaration by the official veterinary surgeon that he has seen the record of the vaccination (and that it contained the microchip number, indicated that vaccination occurred after implantation and in the case of re-vaccination that this was done before the previous vaccination expired and is therefore valid), a declaration that he has seen the record of the serological test performed after the first vaccination giving a result of 0,5 IU/ml or higher and finally a declaration that the animal showed no clinical signs of rabies at the time of certification.

The second certificate is to confirm that the animal has been treated for tapeworm and ticks. It must be signed by the veterinary surgeon of the country in which it was done, state what treatment was used and indicate the date and time of treatment.

Apart from the official health certificates section 7(5) of the Regulations also obliges the person bringing an animal into Malta to carry a signed declaration written in the English language attesting to the fact that the animal has not been outside the qualifying countries in the six months prior to entry.

4.1.3         Movement into other Member States from third countries

As was seen in the case of movement between the Member States themselves, there are rules which apply to entry into Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom and then there are separate rules for entry into other Member States. Unsurprisingly this distinction also applies to movement into Member States from third countries.

The first group of third countries to be discussed is that composed of Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and The Vatican.

The movement of cats, dogs and ferrets from one of these countries into a Member State other than Sweden, Ireland or the United Kingdom requires compliance with article 5(1) of Regulation 998/2003 [20] . Thus it is sufficient for the animal to meet the bare minimum in terms of requirements, that is identification by means of a clearly readable tattoo or a transponder and an antirabies vaccination carried out using an inactivated vaccine of at least one antigenic unit per dose.

But entry into Sweden, Ireland or the United Kingdom must satisfy article 6 of the said Regulation [21] . This means that following the antirabies vaccination an animal must also be given a neutralising antibody titration test which ought to produce a result at least equal to 0,5 IU/ml for entry to be permitted. And it must also be given the appropriate treatment for tapeworm and ticks.

So with regards to the conditions for movement into Member States it appears that Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and The Vatican are placed at par with the Member States because the requirements are the same.

Then there are cats, dogs and ferrets entering Member States from countries in Part C of Annex II which are those third countries or parts of territories provided for in article 10. The original provision does not list the names of the countries but calls for a list to be drawn up before the 3rd of July 2004 and proceeds to lay down certain criteria which must be met by a country in order for it to be included on the list.

The country must demonstrate its status with regard to rabies and that it is a country in which notification to the authorities of the suspicion of rabies is obligatory, where an efficient monitoring system has been in place for at least two years, that the structure and organisation of its veterinary services are sufficient to guarantee the validity of the certificates, that all regulatory measures for the prevention and control of rabies have been implemented (including the rules on imports) and lastly that regulations are in force on the marketing of anti-rabies vaccines (list of authorised vaccines and laboratories).

The countries that made it onto the list and into Part C of Annex II are given in Appendix 3.

Under article 8 movement from one of these third countries into a Member State must meet the same requirements established for movement of cats, dogs and ferrets from Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and The Vatican. In other words entry into Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom must comply with article 6 of the Regulation whilst entry into other Member States must comply with the less rigorous section 5.

Article 12 obliges Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure that pet animals brought into Community territory from these third countries are subject to documentary and identity checks at the point of entry.

Movement of cats, dogs or ferrets into Union territory from any other third country is regulated by article 8(1)(b) of Regulation 998/2003 and as can be expected the conditions are comparatively stricter.

To enter a Member State other than Sweden, Ireland or the United Kingdom from any other third country the animal must be identified by a clearly readable tattoo or transponder (unless the receiving Member State only recognizes the latter) and must have undergone an anti-rabies vaccination carried out with an inactivated vaccine of at least one antigenic unit per dose as well as a neutralising antibody titration at least equal to 0,5 IU/ml carried out on a sample taken by an authorised veterinarian at least 30 days after vaccination and three months before being moved. The three month period will not apply to the re-entry of a pet animal whose passport certifies that the titration was carried out, with a positive result, before the animal left the territory of the Community.

A cat, dog or ferret entering Sweden, Ireland or the United Kingdom from such other third country, whether the entry be immediate or after transit through another Member State or a third country, will be placed in quarantine unless it was brought into conformity with the requirements laid down in article 6 (vide supra) after its entry into the Community.

In all cases the pet animal must always be accompanied by a certificate issued by an official veterinarian or, on re-entry, by a passport certifying compliance with whichever of the above is applicable [22] .

The above elaboration reflects the general requirements governing the entry of cats, dogs and ferrets into Member States from without the European Union. Article 8(3) though goes on to detail some rules that are applicable to movement from certain countries or between particular countries and which are to be followed notwithstanding the general rules seen thus far.

Paragraph (a) highlights the fact that pet animals from Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and The Vatican, for which it has been established that they apply rules at least equivalent to Community rules, are subject to the rules laid down in Chapter II of this Regulation, meaning they must conform to the requirements applicable to movement between Member States. This was already observed with regard to the movement of cats, dogs and ferrets but this paragraph extends this to other pet animals.     

Under paragraph (b) the movement of pet animals between Monaco and France, Andorra and France or Spain, Norway and Sweden, and between San Marino, the Vatican and Italy can take place under the conditions laid down by national rules in force on the 3rd of July 2004 [23] .

Moving on to pet animals other than cats, dogs and ferrets, article 9 of Regulation 998/2003 provides that the conditions applicable to the movement of invertebrates (not bees and crustaceans) ornamental fish, amphibia, reptiles, birds (not poultry) rodents and domestic rabbits and the certificate that must accompany them are to be established in accordance with the procedure in articles 5 and 7 of Decision 1999/468/EC. This is the Council Decision of the 28th June 1999 laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission.

Article 5 of this Council Decision concerns the regulatory procedure, according to which the Commission is to be assisted by a regulatory committee to whom it shall submit drafts of measures to be taken. If in agreement with the opinion of the committee, the Commission shall adopt the measures, otherwise it shall submit them to the Council and inform the European Parliament which will report its position to the Council. Within three months the Council must adopt the act or indicate its opposition whereupon the Commission shall re-examine it and put forth an amended proposal, resubmit the same proposal or submit a legislative proposal on the basis of the Treaty. Where the Council neither adopts the act nor indicates opposition to the same within the three month period the Commission shall adopt the implementing act. Article 7 provides for a safeguard procedure. While the Commission is free to adopt its own rules of procedure it must adapt them to the standard rules of procedure, it has to allow public access to documents, keep the European Parliament informed and publish a list of committees assisting it, an annual report on the working of the committees and references of documents sent to the European Parliament.

Article 14 contains an obligation that ought to be obvious, nevertheless it is laid down so that the owner of an animal understands that not complying would mean that the requirements for entry are not satisfied. The owner or person responsible for a pet animal entering a Member State must always have the Pet Passport or certificate issued by a veterinary surgeon certifying that the animal satisfies the requirements available for inspection by the authorities. [24]

If an animal does not meet the necessary requirements to enter Community territory, the competent authorities of the Member State where this is discovered must act in one of three ways. In consultation with the official veterinarian, the authorities may return the animal to its country of origin, isolate the animal under official control for the time needed for it to meet the health requirements or put the animal down if it does not appear feasible to return or quarantine the animal. Article 14 explicitly states that this third course of action is to be pursued only as a last resort, as can be gleaned from the use of the conditional.


The word importation by and large connotes the performance of a transaction, something that was lacking in the concept of movement discussed so far. Importation would include the circumstances where an animal is acquired from another country or the ownership of an animal is transferred to a person in the import country which would necessitate the ensuing introduction of the animal into the country of importation.

And insofar as importation is distinct from movement Regulation (EC) No 998/2003 does not apply, article 3 of which expressly states that the pet animals covered thereby are animals which are not intended to be sold or transferred to another owner.

The importation of dogs and cats to Malta is regulated by Legal Notice 59 of 1998 which is the Importation of Dogs and Cats Regulations.

These Regulations immediately declare that no cat or dog shall be imported into Malta from any country whatsoever without written permission previously being obtained from the Director of Veterinary Services [25] , such consent logically being subject to the fulfilment of the requirements laid down in this law. If importation were to be unrestricted the health risk to the country would be too great and in recognition of this the Director is justified in deferring the consideration of an import application until he has sufficient official information regarding the rabies status of the exporting country.

4.2.1         Conditions for the importation of dogs and cats

There are a number of conditions that apply to the importation of cats and dogs into Malta. To begin with identification, regulation 5 establishes that the only acceptable manner is an electronic transponder or microchip implanted in the animal.  

As to health, a number of requirements must be complied with in order to ensure a satisfactory health status prior to entry [26] and this must be certified by an accredited veterinarian or the government veterinary officer in the country of export.

The animal must be vaccinated against rabies with an approved inactivated virus vaccine. A primovaccination must be given not less than six months and not more than one year prior to shipment while a booster vaccination cannot be given more than a year prior to shipment. Following vaccination a neutralising antibody titration for rabies must be conducted to confirm that the vaccination was effective, in which case the result ought to be at least 0,5 IU of antibody /ml of antibody in the serum. This titration must be carried out not less than three months and not more than six months prior to shipment.

The animal must also be treated for nematodes with an approved anthelminthic within fourteen days of the intended date for shipment and treated for ticks, lice and fleas with an insecticide dip or spray in the ninety-six hours prior to export.

Apart from vaccination and titration relating to rabies and the above treatment which must be carried out for both cats and dogs there are further health requirements that apply depending on whether the animal is one or the other, with those for dogs being greater in number.  

Cats have to be vaccinated against feline enteritis, feline rhinotracheitis and feline calcivirus in the twelve months before but never less than thirty days prior to shipment.

Dogs have to be vaccinated against canine distemper, infectious hepatitis, canine parvovirus and pare influenza in the twelve months before but never less than thirty days prior to shipment. They have to be tested for canine heartworm - Dirofilaria immitis in the thirty days before shipment and treated with one oral dose of ivermectin at 50 mcg/kg by the certifying veterinarian within twenty-four hours of export. In the thirty days prior to shipment they must also test negative for Brucella canis and leptospirosis ( serotype Leptospira canicola ) using the microsopic agglutination test or test negative for Leptospira interrogans var. canicola infection using the serum agglutination test or be treated with dihydrostreptomycin sulfate daily for five days at therapeutic dose rates. The last of a long list of requirements is a negative test for canine tropical pancytopaenia - Ehrlichia canis using the indirect fluorescent antibody test.

The owner of the animal or his agent is required to make a declaration confirming that other requirements laid down in regulation 4 have been complied with. According to this provision the animal must have been continuously resident in the country of origin for a minimum of six months prior to export to Malta and cannot have been in official quarantine premises in the two months prior to export. The animal must be over nine months old at the time of shipment unless the country of export is Australia, Hawaii, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden or the United Kingdom. And because of its delicate condition the cut off time for the shipment of a pregnant animal is forty-two days. With regards to the actual transport of the animal, the container must meet IATA standards.

The importance of documentation to the import process cannot be underestimated. It is imperative for the cat or dog be accompanied by four documents upon arrival in Malta [27] : the import permit issued by the Director of Veterinary Services, a veterinary certificate confirming that all the health requirements have been conformed to, the owner/agent declaration and a port veterinary certificate. These last three forms are found in the First, Second and Third Schedule to the Regulations respectively.

If the certification requirements cannot be satisfied by the importer for some reason beyond his control he may put in an application for dispensation which will be considered by the Minister responsible for Veterinary Services and dispensation issued at his discretion. To be in a position to consider the application the Minister must be provided with specific information from the government veterinary authorities of the exporting country which will be instrumental in his decision to grant or deny the application : he must be informed of which clause of the import health standard cannot be met and the why, the reason the animal is considered to be of equivalent health status or a proposal which would allow the animal to comform to the health requirements, why this should be accepted and a recommendation for the same.

4.2.2     Arrival and Detention in Quarantine

Regulation 7 of the Importation of Cats and Dogs Regulations states that all animals entering Malta must be air lifted and that only those who qualify for entry according to the above conditions shall be permitted to be carried on the aircraft. Furthermore the animal must be carried in an approved container which meets the standards of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which standards will be discussed in detail in the upcoming section.

Upon arrival in Malta regulation 8 declares that the animal shall be transported directly to the quarantine station at Luqa. The period of time for which the animal will have to be detained is dependent on the country of export which will fall into one of three categories according to the rabies status existing therein [28] .

The first category comprises Fiji, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Mauritius, Netherlands, Antilles and Aruba, Portugal, Spain, Seychelles and Taiwan. These are those countries and territories which have declared themselves to be free of rabies or of having efficient control but which have not been formally recognised by Malta as being free of rabies. Under regulation 9(1) animals imported from these countries shall be held in quarantine for a minimum of one hundred and eighty days.

The second category is one step closer to having a satisfactory health status in that it comprises those countries and territories which are recognized by Malta as not having urban rabies or as being countries and territories in which it is well controlled. These are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greenland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States of America. Animals imported therefrom shall be quarantined for a minimum of thirty days.

The countries and territories in the third category are those Malta recognises as being rabies free and which have an effective control or surveillance programme. They are Australia, Hawaii, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Animals imported from any one of these will be quarantined for a minimum of twenty-one days.

While the animal is quarantined it will be tested once again for the efficacy of the rabies vaccination by means of a neutralising antibody titration test. If the result reveals an antibody level of less than 0,5 IU/ml the animal is considered not to have sufficient protection against rabies and regulation 9(3) provides that the animal may be re-vaccinated and/or retested, exported, destroyed or required to remain in quarantine for up to one hundred and eighty days.

Any imported dog that is being detained in quarantine may also be tested for heartworm due to Dirofilaria immitis , leptospirosis due to Leptospira interrogans var. canicola, canine brucellosis ( Brucella canis ) and canine tropical pancytopaenia ( Ehrlichia canis ). If the dog tests positive for any it can be treated and retested. If it is subsequently considered to be infected it may be further treated or exported, destroyed or detained in quarantine. [29]

The dog may also be exported, destroyed or required to remain in quarantine for up to one hundred and eighty days, to be determined by the Director, if the container is unsealed or the seal is broken or if the accompanying documentation is unsatisfactory [30] .

Under regulation 9(5) the Director of Veterinary Services is entitled to increase any period of quarantine for any animal, an appeal against which can be lodged with the Council of Health by the importer.

Animals should therefore arrive by air and proceed directly to quarantine facilities. Should an animal be brought into Malta without the necessary import permit or aboard a ship, yacht, pleasure craft or any vessel for transport by sea it cannot be kept on board but must be immediately conveyed to the quarantine station for immediate destruction or re-exportation within a week in accordance with regulation 10. The threat of destruction of the companion animal surely provides a most excellent incentive for compliance with the law.

To conclude, for a dog or cat to be allowed into the country the importer must comply with all the requirements laid down in this Regulation and the animal must be detained in the quarantine facilities at Luqa upon arrival. Quarantine is the general rule following importation but the Pet Travel Scheme Regulations provide an exemption from quarantine for pet cats and dogs. Regulation 3 states that a person may bring a pet cat or pet dog into Malta without complying with the provisions of the Importation of Dogs and Cats Regulations if all the conditions relating to the importation of such animal in Pet Travel Scheme Regulations are complied with.

4.2.3         Exotic companion animals

Animals which are not domesticated have always held a certain allure, explaining why zoos continue to draw visitors despite the controversy of whether they are ethically wrong or can contribute to the difficult task of increasing the numbers of animals in danger of extinction by mating adults and possibly releasing the young into the wild.

The rarer an animal the more appeal it seems to have. Now, while most of us would never dream of owning a wild animal for a multitude of reasons, not least of which being the simple but often disregarded fact that wild animals belong in their natural environment, for some the ownership of such an animal is thought to be the ultimate status symbol.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) was born from the aspiration to protect flora and fauna from extinction and entered into force on the 1st July 1975, long before the plight faced by endangered species was universally understood.

CITES contains three appendices in which the different species are listed according to the degree of protection they require. Appendix one lists those threatened with extinction and consequently trade is only allowed in exceptional circumstances. Appendix two contains those in which trade must be controlled to avoid use that is incompatible with their survival even though they are not necessarily threatened. Appendix three contains species which are protected in at least one state which has therefore asked other parties to CITES for help in controlling trade of the same.

CITES was acceded to by Malta on the 17th April 1989 and entered into force on the 16th July 1989. The Management Authority in charge of issuing the CITES permit in Malta is the Environment Protection Directorate (Malta Environment And Planning Authority, Nature Protection Unit), the Scientific Authority is Professor P. J. Schembri (Department of Biology, University of Malta) and the National Enforcement Authority is the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

The Inspectorate of the Environment Protection Directorate works in close collaboration with the Customs Department to ensure the implementation and enforcement of CITES.

Customs will only release a specimen if the Directorate authorises the same. Therefore when a CITES listed specimen is imported Environment Inspectors will be present at the point of entry to control the validity of the CITES documents and ensure that the information in the documents corresponds to the shipment. If satisfied that the specimen was imported in accordance with CITES the Environment Inspectors will grant the necessary authorisation for release on the Customs documents and surrender the original CITES permits and certificates.

CITES documents are also inspected when specimens are exported or re-exported. In such cases the Environment Inspectors will also assist Customs with the identification of specimens and the number of specimens. Once satisfied that all is regular the Customs official will stamp the original CITES export permit or certificate, indicating the quantity of specimens being exported.

With legal trade it is simply a case of ensuring that the CITES documents are valid and cover the specimens actually being imported or exported. The existence of CITES documents presupposes the intention to trade within the framework of the law, or at least to appear to be doing so, but once a consignment is accompanied by CITES documents release is dependent on authorisation being given by the Environment Inspectors and therefore any infringement of the Convention will nevertheless be discovered at the time of inspection.

To better combat illegal trade in CITES listed specimens Airport Security, the Armed Forces of Malta and the Police all cooperate with the Environment Protection Directorate. Once again Customs plays a crucial role on account of its presence at points of import and export. If fraud is suspected by Customs the Police will be alerted, as will be the Environment Inspectors who will assist them with the identification of the specimens and the relevant legal provisions.

As to what will become of an animal that requires a CITES permit but is not covered by one [31] , it will be taken to a temporary rescue centre. At present the Small Animal Quarantine facilities in Luqa are used for this purpose but these premises are not ideal. To begin with they cannot house large animals, providentially no large animals have required temporary lodging so far but if one ever does the Directorate will find itself in quite a difficult position. Another problem is the fact that many animals require special care while in captivity, care that the Small Animal Quarantine facilities may not be able to provide. One particular tortoise did not make it because the conditions here were not optimal. The Environment Protection Directorate has drawn the higher authorities’ attention to these concerns and so, once again, one can only hope that things will eventually be improved. This may be an area of environmental law but animal welfare must remain a priority.

An animal will be held at the temporary rescue centre until the case is decided because the Court may make an order for the animal to be returned, though this has not happened so far. The fact that an animal was intended for companionship is not a sufficient reason to allow it to be kept once it has been established that the animal is an object of unlawful trade, on the other hand this could also never constitute a reason to destroy an animal.

In any case, because the animal has been kept in captivity it is unlikely that it will be returned to the wild. It may have lost its ability to hunt or acquired a parasite which could endanger the rest of the population. Although some animals can be re-trained and released, such as birds of prey, this is not the norm. Ordinarily a permanent rescue centre is sought for the animal and if one is not available here the Directorate will look elsewhere, as with two monkeys that were sent to the Netherlands and another to Hungary.

Plainly animals imported contrary to the Convention cannot be kept by the persons responsible for the same. And although fines and punishments restrictive of personal liberty are imposed by the Court for such infringements, sending out a very clear message to potential offenders, unfortunately it is always the animals that suffer the greatest consequences.


Carriage by air is the most efficient and sometimes the only manner of transporting an animal from one country to another, moreover the receiving country may only accept an animal if it is transported by air.

The IATA Live Animals Regulations (LAR) are the established international standard for the transport of live animals by commercial airlines, so much so that they have even been adopted as guidelines for transport by air by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) [32] which recommended that signatory states to the Convention incorporate LAR into their domestic legislation.

The IATA LAR are updated regularly and the current edition is the thirty-third. These Regulations cover the transport of all animals and not just companion animals. They contain information, instructions and suggestions on all relevant aspects of shipment by air, including reservations and advance arrangements, animal behaviour which must always be taken into consideration for safe transportation, the classification of animals, handling procedures, documentation, container requirements and marking and labelling. All live animals imported into the European Union and subject to CITES controls must comply with the IATA LAR.

Some airlines, Air Malta p.l.c [33] being one of them, do not allow animals to be transported in passenger cabins as accompanied baggage but will transport them in a heated and ventilated hold as special baggage instead. Some airlines will also refuse to carry particular animals, American Airlines for instance will not transport the American Pit Bull, the Fila Braziliero, the Japanese Tosa, the Pit Bull Terrier and the Dogo Argentino while Air China will not carry poisonous snakes. Some airlines will only accept to carry animals having particular characteristics subject to special precautions, such as Continental Airlines which will only carry brachycephalic dog breeds which are susceptible to heat stroke and breathing problems if the kennel provided is one size larger than ordinarily required with ventilation on four sides and only water is given during the flight.

4.3.1     Reservation and advance arrangements

Chapter 4 of the LAR requires that space for a live animal on the carrier be requested and confirmed before the animal is offered for shipping. If more than one carrier is involved advance arrangements must be made and confirmation received that every carrier can accept the consignment over the chosen route. In any case the most direct route should be opted for to avoid repeated handling and climatic changes which cause stress to the animal.

4.3.2     Animal behaviour

During transportation the animal will find itself in an unfamiliar environment which may alarm it and affect its behaviour. At minimum every container must therefore be constructed to contain and restrain the animal. It is desirable to avoid causing additional stress to the animal as this could increase the possibility of problematic behaviour. Chapter 5 of the LAR provides guidelines in this respect which ought to be observed by the shipper and the carrier.

Special consideration must always be given to the digestive behaviour of animals which may differ greatly from one species to another. To illustrate, while snakes should not be fed for a few days before shipment because a drop in ambient temperature may cause food in the digestive tract to rot, birds must definitely be fed and watered beforehand to ensure their high metabolism is maintained. The sexual behaviour of males in the presence of females in oestrus should also be thought of. It is preferable not to ship females in this condition and to stow sexually mature males and females as far apart as possible. As to care giving behaviour, mammals with suckling young should not be carried for they may harm their young if they sense danger. Young animals of the same species exhibit care seeking behaviour and should be located adjacent to one another as separation will increase stress. On the other hand, animals which are natural enemies must never be placed close to one another. In every case it is important to avoid causing unnecessary stress to any animal as this can result in unpredictable behaviour.

4.3.3     Documentation

The documentation necessary for the transport of a live animal is dealt with in Chapter 7 of the LAR.

The first is the Shipper’s Certification which must be completed by the shipper for each shipment, unless the airline allows the animal to be carried as baggage in which case this certificate is only needed if the carrier requests it. The Shipper’s Certification must be in the English language, made out in two copies (one to be retained by the carrier and the other to be sent with the shipment), indicate the common name and the scientific name of the animal and be signed by the shipper.

An Air Waybill is also required for carriage by air (this is the equivalent of the Bill of Lading used for shipping of cargo by sea). It must state the nature and quantity of goods (the nature being the taxonomic class of the animal) and give a twenty-four hour emergency telephone number.

If the animal is of a species included in a CITES appendix it must always be accompanied by a CITES document, which can be one or more of the following: an export permit, import permit (for an Appendix I species only), re-export certificate, certificate of origin (for an Appendix III species only), certificate of introduction from the sea, certificate of captive breeding, certificate of artificial propagation or phytosanitary certificate, pre-Convention certificate, certificate for live animals belonging to a travelling exhibition or a label for exchange between registered scientists or scientific institutions (not for live animals). The document must be issued by the official Management Authorities of the countries of export and import. For countries that are not parties to CITES documents comparable to these will do.

Notification to the Captain of the species, location and quantity of all live cargo on board the aircraft is also required. This is done using the Special Load - Notification to Captain (NOTOC) form and has to be presented to the Captain prior to departure.

As to other documents, it is up to the shipper to provide the health declarations and permits required by the authorities of the countries of export, transhipment and import.

4.3.4         Container requirements

The IATA LAR container requirements establish the minimum standards for shipment by air so shippers are free to provide containers which exceed such standards.

In general all containers must be well constructed, dimensions must be appropriate for the size of the animal (allowing it to stand, turn and lie down) and adequate ventilation must be provided for on three sides. They must be such to keep the animal within and ensure nothing can access the animal from without. The inside must be smooth or rounded so no harm is caused to the animal and food and water containers having rounded edges and made of non toxic material must be attached to the inside or the outside of the container.

The variety of animals that could require transportation by air means that containers should be suitable for the particular species being carried. Chapter 6 contains a taxonomic classification of animals and indicates which container requirement is to be observed for each species. Accordingly a cat ( Felis catus ) or dog ( Canis familiaris ) would need a container conforming to Container Requirement 1 and ferrets ( Mustela spp. ) which are fast becoming popular as companion animals (despite the odour and persistent habit of literally biting the hand that feeds them) would need one that meets Container Requirement 79 whilst for the adult orang-utan ( Pongo Pygmaeus ) which is listed in CITES Appendix I it would be Container Requirement 34. All Container Requirements are described and illustrated in Chapter 8 of the LAR.

4.3.5         Marking and Labelling

The shipper must mark the container, in a durable and legible manner, on the outside with the full name, address and contact number of the shipper, consignee and a twenty-four hour contact, common and scientific name of the animal, quantity of animals being shipped in that container, the word poisonous if the animal is capable of inflicting poisonous bites or stings, a warning that the animal bites if that is the case, feeding and watering instructions and details regarding any medication administered to the animal.

Labels used must be sufficiently durable so as to remain recognisable and legible and not cover the ventilation holes of the container. All containers must have ‘This Way Up’ labels (bright red or black on a red background) on all four sides of the container and at least one ‘Live Animal’ label (bright green on a light background) or tag that indicates the species of the animal inside the container and where it is a Specific Pathogen Free laboratory animal a ‘Laboratory Animal’ label (bright red on a light background) is necessary. All labels may be affixed to or imprinted on the container and cannot be smaller in dimension than four by six inches.

The LAR do provide for every aspect of the transportation of an animal and because there are so many requirements that have to be complied with the IATA Live Animals Board developed a Live Animals Acceptance Check List to assist in determining whether all these have in fact been met. The person checking the consignment must answer a list of yes or no questions and if any one is ticked no that will mean that the consignment does not comply with the LAR and that the animal can no longer be accepted for carriage.





[For a full copy of the Animal Welfare Law and Dog Law see Table of Statutes ]


[1] Article 25 declared that this Regulation would enter into force on the 20th day after that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. It was published on the 13th June of 2003.

[2] Regulation 998/2003, article 3(c)

[3] Regulation 998/2003, article 3(a)

[4] Regulation 998/2003, article 5(1)(a)

[5] An eight-year transitional period starting from the entry into force of Regulation 998/2003

[6] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 5(1)

[7] Regulation 998/2003, article 5(1)(b)

[8] A five-year transitional period starting from the entry into force of Regulation 998/2003

[9] Malta joined the European Union on the 1st May 2004

[10] In fact cats, dogs and ferrets are allowed to move freely between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

[11] 2003/803/EC

[12] Regulation 998/2003, article 7

[13] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 5

[14] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 6(1)(a)

[15] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 6(1)(b)

[16] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 6(2)

[17] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 6(3)

[18] Legal Notice 169 of 2001, section 6(4)

[19] Health certificates must be written in the English language.

[20] Regulation 998/2003, article 8(1)(a)(i)

[21] Regulation 998/2003, article 8(1)(a)(ii)

[22] Regulation 998/2003, article 8(2)

[23] Regulation 998/2003, article 8(3)(b)

[24] Directive 998/2003, article 14

[25] Regulation 3

[26] Regulation 6

[27] Regulation 3(3)

[28] Regulation 4

[29] Regulation 9(4)

[30] Regulation 9(2)

[31] Information kindly supplied by Mr Frederick L. Bowman, Senior Environment Inspector, Malta Environment and Planning Authrity

[32] By Convention Resolution 10.21 made at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, 1983.

[33] Air Malta is an IATA Member Airline. This means it will accept animals for transportation in accordance with the LAR






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