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 Scotland
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 Weatherby's. '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' means the entire operation of transport from 'place of departure' to 'place of destination' including loading at the place of departure, any transfer during the journey, any unloading, rest / accommodation and loading occurring at intermediate points in the journey, until all animals are unloaded at the place of destination.
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:
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
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 Scottish government can be places of departure if the animals to be transported have either:
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 spent time 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) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 commits an offence against the Animal Health Act 1981. The maximum penalty on conviction is £5,000 and three months' imprisonment.
For more information please see the Live transport: welfare regulations section of the GOV.UK website.
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. Please contact us for further information.
Last reviewed/updated: May 2015