Farm animal transport journey times
If you transport animals as part of your business, the law is explicit on the duration, and the vehicles that can be used
This guidance is for England
When transported in connection with an economic activity (in other words a business or trade) horses (except registered horses*), cattle, sheep, goats and pigs must not be transported for more than eight hours unless the additional requirements for vehicles carrying out long journeys are met. However, a single journey by road in the UK of up to 12 hours continuous duration is permitted in order to reach the final place of destination without the need for the vehicle to meet the additional provisions required for longer journeys.
[*Registered domestic horses are those registered with a recognised breed society or companies like the British Horse Database at Weatherbys. 'Registered domestic Equidae' does not simply mean those with horse passports.]
At the final place of destination animals must be unloaded, watered and rested for at least 48 hours. Approved livestock markets can be places of departure if the animals have travelled to the market less than 100km or they have been there for at least six hours with sufficient bedding and water. If not, then the time spent travelling to the market must be added to the journey from the market to establish the journey time.
In the guide
- 'Journey' definition
- What are the principal requirements?
- What is the maximum permitted journey time for livestock by road?
- Derogations for means of transport by road on journeys under 12 hours
- How does a livestock market affect journey times?
'Journey' means the entire operation of transport from 'place of departure' to 'place of destination' including any unloading accommodation and loading occurring at intermediate points in the journey.
A 'place of departure' is the place at which the animal is first loaded on to a means of transport, provided that it has been accommodated there for at least 48 hours. European Union (EU) approved markets and assembly centres may also be regarded as places of departure (see 'How does a livestock market affect journey times?' below). A 'place of destination' is the place at which an animal is unloaded from a means of transport, and either accommodated for at least 48 hours prior to the time of departure or slaughtered.
The welfare of animals during transport is protected by EU legislation on the protection of animals in transport and related operations.
Anyone transporting vertebrate animals on journeys of over 65km (approximately 40 miles) as part of an economic activity must hold a valid transporter authorisation to do so. Anyone transporting cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, domestic equidae or poultry by road over 65km is required to hold valid certificates of competence for drivers and attendants of road vehicles.
All persons who take animals on a journey, whatever the length, should always apply the following good transport practice:
- the journey is properly planned and time is kept to a minimum
- the animals are checked and their needs met during the journey
- the animals are fit to travel
- the vehicle and loading and unloading facilities are designed, constructed and maintained to avoid injury and suffering
- those handling animals are trained or competent in the task and do not use violence or any methods likely to cause unnecessary fear, injury or suffering
- water, feed and rest are given to the animals as needed, and sufficient floor space and height is provided
Eight hours, except as set out below. This applies to horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
Transporters of vertebrate animals carrying out journeys of over eight hours by road will, in addition, have to have their vehicles or livestock containers inspected and approved according to specific criteria such as on-vehicle drinking systems, ventilation systems and temperature monitoring. Where vehicles meet all the additional provisions and have been inspected and approved, journey times may be extended as shown in the attached document:
Journey times and rest periods for farmed animals and unregistered horses (PDF 134KB)
Different provisions apply when the means of transport is by or includes air and/or sea.
A single journey in the UK of up to 12 hours' continuous duration is permitted in order to reach the final place of destination without the need for the vehicle to meet the additional provisions required for longer journeys.
Livestock markets approved by Defra can be places of departure if the animals to be transported have either:
- travelled to the market less than 100km (60 miles)
- been accommodated in the market with sufficient bedding, untied if possible, and watered, for at least six hours
In these circumstances a new journey begins.
If the animals have travelled over 100km (60 miles), or have not been in the market for over six hours, then the time spent travelling to the market must be added to the journey from the market to establish the journey time.
Any person who contravenes the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 commits an offence against the Animal Health Act 1981 and as such each offence attracts a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six months' imprisonment on summary conviction.
- Animal Health Act 1981
- EU Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations
- Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text. Amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide.
Last reviewed/updated: October 2013