Information on laboratory organisational structure and roles was gathered from twenty-four national veterinary diagnostic laboratories around the world. This information was used to develop an overview of the organisation and roles of the national veterinary diagnostic laboratory. In addition, the national diagnostic laboratory for the United States of America (the National Veterinary Services Laboratories) was used as an example to provide more information on the activities of such a laboratory. The survey revealed great variation in organisation and structure among the twenty-four laboratories. A few have only one facility, others function at multiple locations, and all have different supervisory reporting systems. However, these laboratories all form a significant part of the national veterinary infrastructure. All of the laboratories contacted in the survey report to (or are at least partially under the direction of) the Chief Veterinary Officer or another senior animal health official, and most report to the Ministry of Agriculture. The national veterinary diagnostic laboratories have similar roles, and are all responsible for foreign animal disease diagnosis and for providing support to national disease eradication or control programmes. Most also play an active role in import and export testing, either performing the tests themselves or developing a quality assurance programme for other laboratories that perform the testing. In addition, the national veterinary diagnostic laboratories usually undertake research and provide training, consultation, disease surveillance information and, in some cases, vaccine evaluation.