Moving Reindeer Without Magical Assistance

At this festive time of year, there is increased demand for the transport of domesticated reindeer throughout the UK. If only the reality of ‘reindeer-moving’ was as simple as Santa gallivanting around the globe on his sleigh! If you thought general airport security was complicated (especially at Christmas), wait until you learn the reality of the process required to move reindeer without magical assistance.

Cleansing & Disinfection:

Before the reindeers’ move has even started, the owner or keeper is required to check the animals for any sign of disease. If disease is detected, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) must be notified and all further reindeer movements are to be kept on hold until the suspicion of disease has been investigated and dealt with (fingers crossed for a speedy recovery Dasher)!

Even if the reindeer are disease free, any transportation vehicle used during the move must be cleansed and disinfected to meet high legal standards. This is not just for the welfare of movers, but for the comfort of the reindeer themselves. This is not the most glamorous aspect of the moving process, with sadly no elves on standby to help.


The identification of each animal is highly important. Reindeers have their own passport system in the form of a unique ear tag. The tag includes information such as herd registration number and individual identity – allowing everyone involved with the move to tell the difference between Dancer and Prancer (Rudolph is easier to identify with his red nose).

Scheduled stops are permitted during the move, but it is essential that the reindeer do not exit the vehicle along with their human drivers. Unloading and transferring of livestock between vehicles is strictly prohibited, unless there is an emergency. Reindeers tend to stampede, so for their own safety (and the safety of other travellers) keeping them onboard avoids potential chaos.

Movement Reporting:

All movements of reindeer must be reported using the movement reporting document. Movements can be recorded electronically in the case of being received at markets or other premises. For any reindeers appearing at festive events, such as Christmas fairs and Santa’s grottos, a number of additional processes and checks must be carried out.

Reindeer that work with the public will need to be health and safety approved and fully insured inclusive of public liability insurance. Relevant risk assessments will need to be carried out on site, and if the reindeer will be meeting children their handlers will also need to have been DBS checked. The reindeer should be handled with care in accordance with animal welfare standards.

Reindeer in the UK

There are not many reindeer currently situated in the UK, with numbers of around 1,500. The majority of these animals have been transported from Scandinavia – travelling through the process described in this blog. The vast majority are highly domesticated.

Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer consists of less than two-hundred individuals, living in the cold conditions of the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland. During summer months visitors can take guided trips to view the reindeer across their wide ranges, in the winter the herd can be challenging to find!

Written by Lucy Owen – Global Recruitment Resourcer – Global Mobility & Expatriate Services at Alchemy Global Talent Solutions.