Terrestrial Animal Health Code
Protection of the professional integrity of the certifying veterinarian
Certification should be based on the highest possible ethical standards, the most important of which is that the professional integrity of the certifying veterinarian should be respected and safeguarded in accordance with Chapters 3.1. and 3.2.
It is essential to include in any requirements only those specific statements that can be accurately and honestly signed by a certifying veterinarian. For example, these requirements should not include certification of an area as being free from diseases other than notifiable diseases, or the occurrence of which the signing veterinarian is not necessarily informed about. It is unacceptable to ask for certification for events which will take place after the document is signed when these events are not under the direct control and supervision of the signing veterinarian.
Certification of freedom from diseases based on purely clinical freedom and herd or flock history is of limited value. This is also true of diseases for which there is no specific diagnostic test, or the value of the test as a diagnostic aid is limited.
Certifying veterinarians should:
only certify matters that are within their own knowledge at the time of signing the certificate, or that have been separately attested by another competent party;
sign only at the appropriate time certificates that have been completed fully and correctly; where a certificate is signed on the basis of supporting documentation, the certifying veterinarian should have verified or be in possession of that documentation before signing;
have no conflict of interest in the commercial aspects of the animals or animal products being certified and be independent from the commercial parties.
Preparation of international veterinary certificates
Certificates should be drawn up in accordance with the following principles:
Certificates should be designed so as to minimize the potential for fraud including use of a unique identification number, or other appropriate means to ensure security. Paper certificates should bear the signature of the certifying veterinarian and the official identifier (stamp) of the issuing Veterinary Authority. Each page of a multiple page certificate should bear the unique certificate number and a number indicating the number of the page out of the total number of pages. Electronic certification procedures should include equivalent safeguards.
Certificates should be written using terms that are simple, unambiguous and as easy to understand as possible, without losing their legal meaning.
Certificates should not require a veterinarian to certify matters that are outside his/her knowledge or which he/she cannot ascertain and verify.
Where appropriate, when presented to the certifying veterinarian, certificates should be accompanied by notes of guidance indicating the extent of enquiries, tests or examinations expected to be carried out before the certificate is signed.
The text of a certificate should not be amended except by deletions which should be signed and stamped by the certifying veterinarian.
The signature and stamp should be in a colour different from that of the printing of the certificate. The stamp may be embossed instead of being a different colour.
Replacement certificates may be issued by a Veterinary Authority to replace certificates that have been, for example, lost, damaged, contain errors, or where the original information is no longer correct. These replacements should be provided by the issuing authority and be clearly marked to indicate that they are replacing the original certificate. A replacement certificate should reference the number and the issue date of the certificate that it supersedes. The superseded certificate should be cancelled and, where possible, returned to the issuing authority.
Only original certificates are acceptable.
Systems providing electronic certificates normally provide an interface with the commercial organisation marketing the commodity for provision of information to the certifying authority. The certifying veterinarian should have access to all information such as laboratory results and animal identification data.
When exchanging electronic certificates and in order to fully utilise electronic data exchange the Veterinary Authorities should use internationally standardised language, message structure and exchange protocols. Guidance for electronic certification in standardised Extensible Markup Language (XML) as well as secure exchange mechanisms between Veterinary Authorities is provided by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).
A secure method of electronic data exchange should be ensured by digital authentication of the certificates, encryption, non-repudiation mechanisms, controlled and audited access and firewalls.
Electronic certificates may be in a different format but should carry the same information as conventional paper certificates.
The Veterinary Authority should have in place systems for the security of electronic certificates against access by unauthorised persons or organisations.
The certifying veterinarian should be officially responsible for the secure use of his/her electronic signature.
nb: first adopted in 1986; most recent update adopted in 2015.
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