What we do at the Animal Health Lab

The Animal Health Laboratory is New Zealand's national veterinary laboratory. It plays a vital role in protecting New Zealand from animal diseases that could have serious effects on our animal industries, the health of New Zealanders and our environment.

What we do at the Animal Health Lab

At the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) we carry out tests for known or suspected infectious diseases that could have a serious effect on New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) uses the AHL to:

  • diagnose and help control animal (including aquatic animal) diseases
  • certify animals and animal products as disease-free for import or export
  • prepare for potential disease outbreaks.

Staff play advisory roles

Our veterinarians and scientific staff are experts in veterinary virology, bacteriology, immunology, pathology, and molecular diagnostics. As experts in their field, they play an important role advising government, industry and individuals on animal diseases and tests.

Testing for exotic and emerging diseases

We test animals suspected of carrying exotic or emerging diseases such as bird flu, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or foot-and-mouth disease. Our highly secure lab (level 3 biocontainment) allows us to safely test for diseases that would have a serious effect if they entered New Zealand, including animal diseases that can affect people (zoonoses).

A lab worker wearing protective head gear and gloves, prepares a sample.
The Animal Health Lab provides highly secure testing services


MPI regularly checks animals in New Zealand to make sure we don't have exotic diseases like bird flu or TSEs. We also monitor diseases that are already in New Zealand. These surveillance programmes are important to protect our animal industries and reassure our trading partners that New Zealand doesn't have certain diseases.

Import and export testing

We test animals, semen and embryos that are being imported or exported to certify they are free from certain diseases.

Find out about:

International partnerships and activities

Our staff work with overseas organisations, researching animal diseases, developing tests and providing advice.

The AHL is a member of: 

  • the National Laboratory Task Group Australia and New Zealand
  • the Sub-committee for Aquatic Animal Health (SCAAH)
  • FluLabNet (a European Union-organised influenza network)
  • the New Zealand Veterinary Laboratory Network
  • the International Veterinary Biosafety Workgroup.
  • the Global foot-and-mouth disease Research Alliance.

Every 2 years, we host the Molecular Diagnostics Workshop which brings together experts in molecular diagnostics from universities, government and private laboratories from around New Zealand and beyond.

Who to contact

If you have questions about our work:

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