Facebook Twitter YouTube

EU – Importing and Exporting Racing Pigeons

To provide members with a detailed overview of what is going on ‘behind the scenes’ at the RPRA in respect of Brexit and its impact on the import and export of racing pigeons to and from the EU, please refer to the latest correspondence sent to the APHA and EU Commission below.

Please note that this does not affect pigeons transported for racing purposes, as the APHA has previously provided assurances in this respect (as previously published).

Readers/Members should note that the content is just an interpretation and may not be correct. This is particularly relevant to the interpretation of the Quarantine rules.  Therefore, no reliance should be placed on the content published. 

Hopefully, clarity will be obtained from both the EU and APHA in the near future that will lead to the issue of specific racing pigeon guidance in respect of importing and exporting – to include Northern Ireland.

This matter has also been brought to the attention of the Chair of the APPG, who will hopefully raise this issue at a senior level within DEFRA/APHA.

In the meantime I thought it would be beneficial to members to publish the content of this communication, and therefore hopefully reassure them that steps are being taken on their behalf.

Ian Evans

Correspondence to APHA and EU Commission 

As a representative of over 19,000 pigeon fanciers in the UK it is disappointing that there has been little engagement to date from the APHA in respect of my queries relating to the import and export of racing pigeons to and from the EU. This is despite my best efforts and the numerous emails sent to APHA to discuss, in detail, the requirements. I was hoping by now we could have published a document similar to that of the ‘Avian Influenza code of practice for pigeon racing’ and therefore provide detailed guidance specific to racing pigeons. This would not only assist our members but also assist the APHA by reducing the hundreds of calls they are receiving from pigeon fanciers requesting clarification. To date I have simply been referred to online guidance that requires interpretation. It would be helpful to arrive at a position where my interpretation is either confirmed correct or not. Then work to a position where clarity is provided to our members and the other thousands of pigeons fanciers within the UK.  

I have recently spoken to and sent an email to the EU commission regarding the import of Racing pigeons from the UK to the EU. I have copied and pasted the content of this letter into the section heading below. Your thoughts on the content of this letter would be appreciated. In particular I draw reference to the inclusion of the UK as a third country within annex I of regulation 139/2013.   

Having read the EU regulations and the relevant guidance on the .gov website my interpretation is as follows:

Note: We are not referring to the transporting pigeons for the food chain. Therefore the classification as poultry is not relevant. We are talking about the transportation of pigeons for sporting/hobby purposes (excluding transportation to release points for races) 

Importing pigeons from the EU to UK   

My interpretation of the Health Documentation requirements are as follows:

1. The pigeons have to come from a registered holding within the EU. This means a holding that has been registered with the relevant authority in the country of origin. Furthermore they have to be resident in the holding for 21 days or continuously from hatching.

2. The pigeons will require a test at an approved establishments 7 to 14 days in advance of transport confirming that they are free of avian influenza and Newcastles disease.

3. That an animal health certificate is required signed by a vet from the country of origin. 

In respect of point 3 above would this be the same form provided in annex III of EU regulation 139/2013? 

It is my understanding that as long as the points above have been met there is no requirement for quarantine in the UK and that the pigeons can be delivered direct to their new owner.

In respect of point 2, above 

If the pigeons are vaccinated against Paramyxo (Newcastle’s disease) would a test for Newcastle’s disease still be required) . 

With reference to the laboratory virus detection test; Is this applicable to Racing Pigeons ? You will be aware of the fact that Racing Pigeons are vaccinated against Paramyxo Virus and I am told that this would create difficulties is carrying our a detection test against Newcastle’s disease.   

Given that DEFRAs risk assessment in relation to racing pigeons conclude that pigeons pose a very small risk to spreading the virus is a test really necessary ?

Exporting pigeons from UK to EU Countries (copy of correspondence sent to the EU Commission – much of the content will be duplication of that included above)

I am the CEO of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association that represents over 19,000 members that take part in the sport of pigeon racing in the UK.

Since Brexit I have been attempting to produce guidance to assist our members in respect of the import and export of Racing pigeons to and from the EU/UK. The content of regulation 139/2013 is specific in its approach to the import of pigeon for racing purposes, where the intention is to liberate the pigeons in the EU to fly back to a third country (defined within the regulation as a country outside of the EU member states). However, the relevant regulation is less specific in relation to the ‘permanent’ import of pigeons to the EU  from third countries; where pigeon enthusiasts in the EU and UK exchange/gift/sell pigeons to one another. The health documentation for import is less specific.

I have outlined my interpretation of the regulation 139/2013 below and I would be grateful if could could provide clarification in this respect and also bring to my attention any other aspects that I should consider. Hopefully this will result in a document produced by the RPRA that will assist pigeon enthusiasts within the UK and EU.   

I have copied and pasted what I believe the relevant aspect of regulation 139/2013 below:


The following definitions shall also apply: 

(a) ‘birds’ means animals of the avian species other than those referred to in the second paragraph of Article 2;
(b) ‘approved breeding establishment’ means:
(i) an establishment used exclusively for the breeding of birds; and
(ii) that has been inspected and approved by the competent authority of the exporting third country for compliance with the conditions provided for in Article 4 and Annex II;

My observations of the definitions are as follows:

Racing Pigeon imported into the EU for sporting/hobby purposes are not classed as poultry. Therefore the inclusion of pigeons within the definition second paragraph of article two as poultry refers to those imported as part of the food industry in other words for the production of meant or eggs. 

Article 4

Approved breeding establishments
Approved breeding establishments shall comply with the following conditions:
(a) the breeding establishment must be approved by the competent authority in accordance with the conditions set out in Annex II, and assigned an approval number;
(b) that approval number must have been communicated to the Commission by that authority;
(c) the name and approval number of the breeding establishment must appear on a list of breeding establishments drawn up by the Commission;
(d) the approval of the breeding establishment must be immediately withdrawn or suspended by the competent authority where it no longer complies with the conditions set out in Annex II and the Commission must be immediately informed thereof.


The competent authority in the UK is the APHA/DEFRA and there is a well established process of approving establishments. 

Article 5

Import conditions
Imports of birds shall be authorised only if the birds comply with the following conditions:
(a) the birds are captive bred birds;
(b) the birds must originate from third countries or parts thereof referred to in Annex I;
(c) the birds come from approved breeding establishments that comply with the conditions laid down in Article 4;
(d) the birds were subjected to a laboratory virus detection test 7 to 14 days prior to shipment with negative results for any avian influenza and Newcastle disease virus;
(e) the birds have not been vaccinated against avian influenza; 20.2.2013 Official Journal of the European Union L 47/3 EN
(f) the birds are accompanied by an animal health certificate in accordance with the model set out in Annex III (the animal health certificate);


Racing Pigeons are of course captive bred birds and so meet the requirements of point (a).

Now that the UK has left the EU we are classed as a ‘Third Country’. However, I can not see reference to the UK in Annex I . Point (b) above. Please could you clarify if the UK is treated as a Third country and that it will be added to Annex I.?

With reference to the laboratory virus detection test; Is this applicable to Racing Pigeons ? You will be aware of the fact that Racing Pigeons are vaccinated against Paramyxo Virus and I am told that this would create difficulties is carrying our a detection test against Newcastle’s disease. I am also informed that the risk racing pigeons pose to the spread of avian infleunza is very small. I have also seen some scientific papers that conclude they pose no risk. Taking this into consideration are/should racing pigeons be exempt from such tests?         

Article 2 – Scope

This Regulation shall apply to animals of the avian species. However, it shall not apply to:

c) pet animals referred to in the third paragraph of Article 1 of Directive 92/65/EEC, accompanying their owner;


Does this mean that Racing pigeons imported by their owners are not subjected to the requirements of Regulation 139/2013? 


Excluding confirmation in relation to Directive 92/65/EEC and assuming that:

1. The UK is /will be included in Annex I
2. That the laboratory virus detection tests are applicable to Racing Pigeons 

My interpretation of the process to import racing pigeons from the UK to the EU is as follows:

1. The origin of the pigeon has to be from a registered/approved holding by the relevant UK authority and the pigeon has to be registered at such a premises for 21 days or from hatching;
2. The pigeon has to be subjected to a virus detection test for Newcastle’s disease and Avian Influenza;
3. The Animal Health Certificate (Annex III) has to completed.

I would be grateful if you could provide you clarity in respect of the above requirements, and any further observations that you feel are relevant. 

I look forward to your reply.

Kind Regards

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.