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Updated: Traveling with Your Dog to Canada

Tips for Traveling with Dogs to CanadaOur dogs have traveled with us across the border to Canada and back several times over the years, and we’ve learned a few tricks along the way. Contrary to popular belief, neither you nor your dog need an encyclopedic knowledge of hockey to get into the country … but there are some required documents, and if you’re planning to travel to or through Ontario with a bully breed, pay special attention to the section at the end.

What People Need

Most US citizens, ages 16 and up, will need a passport to drive across the border to and from Canada. For those who meet the requirements, these additional methods of identification may also be acceptable:

  • U.S. Passport Cards
  • Enhanced Driver’s Licenses
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry*, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • Military Identification Cards (for members of the U.S. armed forces on official orders)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document (for U.S. citizens on official maritime business)

Children under 16 traveling with both parents can use their birth certificate issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where they were born as identification.

If you’re traveling with a child for whom you have shared custody, or you’re not the parent or legal guardian of a child you’re traveling with, additional documents will be needed. You can determine those requirements on the US Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency websites.

If you’ll be spending the night in Canada, you’ll need to find a great pet friendly hotel! It’s easy to find the perfect spot by searching online or reaching out to your friends for recommendations.

US and Canada Flags

What Your Dog Will Need To Enter Canada

Proof of Rabies Vaccination

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversees the entry of pets into Canada and takes into consideration the rabies status of the country of origin in determining what documents are needed. The US is not a country that Canada recognizes as being rabies-free, so visitors from the US will need proof that their dog has a current rabies vaccination. Here is the official take on what the rabies certificate must include:

Domestic or pet dogs may enter Canada if accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate, which is issued by a licensed veterinarian in English or French, and which clearly identifies the dogs and states that they are currently vaccinated against rabies.

This certificate should identify the animal’s breed, color, weight, etc., and indicate the name of the licensed rabies vaccine used (trade name), including serial number and duration of validity (up to three years). Please note that if the duration of validity is not indicated on the certificate, the vaccine will be considered to be valid for one year.

Canada does not impose a quarantine on a pet arriving from any country, and there is no waiting period between the time your dog is vaccinated for rabies and the time he is welcome to enter Canada.

A rabies vaccination or certification is not required for pups less than three months of age crossing into Canada, but you’ll need to be pre-approved to cross the border back into the US with an unvaccinated puppy. (See “Returning to the US” below.)

If you get to the border and you do not have a proper rabies vaccination for your dog, you will be required (at your expense) to have your dog vaccinated against rabies within a specified period of time (usually two weeks), and provide the vaccination record to a Canadian Food Inspection Agency office. Also, you will be charged administrative fees of $55.00 + tax for the first animal, and $30.00 + tax for each additional animal.

Health Certificate

As long as your dog is healthy, you won’t need a health certificate to drive cross the border with him into Canada. If your dog appears to be ill, the border agents may request a health certificate from a veterinarian indicating that the dog’s condition is not contagious. If you think there could be a question about your dog’s health, it’s a good idea to visit your vet and obtain the health certificate before your trip so that you’re not held up at the border. Of course, dogs flying to Canada must meet the requirements of the airline on which they’ll be traveling, and most of those require a current health certificate.

Food and Treats

Travelers may bring pet food and treats for their personal use into Canada, if they meets all of the following requirements:

  • No more than 20 kg (44 pounds) may be transported.
  • The pet food or treats must be of US origin, commercially packaged, and unopened.
  • The pet food or treats must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the US.
  • The animal that will eat the imported products must accompany the traveler at the time of entry.
  • The imported product must be fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada.

For longer trips, or if you’re traveling through Canada to/from Alaska, consider taking a dehydrated pet food with you. We love The Honest Kitchen dog food because it’s human-grade and easy to travel with – plus a 10 pound box makes 40 pounds of food!

Ty and Buster Eating The Honest Kitchen Dog Food

What Your Dog Will Need to Return to the US

In the past, pet owners were allowed to cross the border into the United States from Canada without a proper rabies certificate if they entered into an agreement to vaccinate their dog and isolate him until the inoculation took effect. Due to an increase in requests for these agreements, an investigation was performed that revealed that many people were not complying with the requirements. So, on August 11, 2014, the United States enacted new requirements for dog entering the country without proper rabies vaccination records.

Proof of Rabies Vaccination

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which oversee the entry of pets into the United States, require that all dogs be properly vaccinated prior to entering the United States. Further, dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies previously must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival. That means that a puppy (or dog for whom there is no record of previous vaccinations, like rescue dogs) were vaccinated for rabies on January 1, he could travel to Canada immediately – because they impose no waiting period – but he would have to wait until January 31st to cross the border back into the US.

Dogs 15 months and older who have been previously vaccinated for rabies, but for whom the vaccination has expired, may cross into the US immediately upon receiving a booster vaccination, as long as they received their first rabies vaccination after they were 3 months old.

To be acceptable, the rabies vaccination certificate must include the following information:

  • Name and address of owner
  • Breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
  • Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  • Date the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination

Since puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies until they are 3 months old, the youngest dog that can travel into the US is 4 months of age.

These requirements apply to all dogs, including service animals such as guide dogs for the blind.

If you’d like to request an exemption from these requirements, requests for confinement agreements will be be individually reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and must be pre-approved before crossing the border into the United States. If you’re planning to travel with an unvaccinated dog, learn the steps you need to take to make sure your travel plans are not derailed.

Health Certificates

Like crossing into Canada, if your dog is healthy, you won’t need a health certificate for him to cross into the US. If there might be any question about his health, we recommend getting a health certificate from a veterinarian that states that his condition is not contagious.

Pet Food and Treats

Food products from Canada, including pet food containing beef, veal, bison, and cervid (e.g. deer, elk, moose, caribou etc.) are now permitted in passenger baggage. Products containing sheep, lamb, or goat will not be allowed entry. Food products should be commercially packaged and sealed with ingredients listed in English.

Breed Specific Legislation

Province of Ontario

The Province of Ontario has an ugly Breed Specific Law that grants police or animal control officers sweeping powers. This includes search and seizure of a dog deemed to be a “pit bull type” based on visual inspection. If the dog is, in fact, judged to be a pit bull type, the dog will be euthanized – even though it may not have broken any other law. Here is a summary of the law from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

Pit bull - Dog in Car

There are no exceptions to this law for tourists traveling with their pets. Anyone having a dog that could be mistaken for a pit bull is urged to carry documents proving your dog’s pedigree when traveling in Ontario.

City of Montreal

In addition, animal control laws (including breed specific provisions) are being enacted in Montreal. Here’s what you need to know:


Montreal's Dangerous Dog By-Law Affects Pet Travelers

Traveling With Your Cat To Canada

Driving across the border to Canada with your cat? We have a special blog post just for you!


Tips for Taking Your Cat to Canada from GoPetFriendly.com

 

The requirements are pretty straight forward, but if you’re still wondering what it’s really like to cross the border with your pets, here’s what happened to us on our last trip to Canada and back!
Ty and Buster at Lake Agnes - Lake Louise, AB

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
Pet Friendly Hotels | Pet Friendly Destinations | Pet Friendly Activities

Comments

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Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm
Thank you so much, Spencer! I'm posting the update now.
Amy@GoPetFriendly Aug 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm
Hi Renee! The rules actually depend on which country you're coming from. I'd recommend checking out PetRelocation.com for more information about your specific needs - if they don't have the information on the website, someone in their customer services will know for sure!
Vosdewael Aug 18, 2011 at 8:17 am
Is this also the case when coming from Europe? Thanks Renee
Amy@GoPetFriendly Jul 26, 2011 at 7:05 pm
Hi there! Jersey is the name of Karen's dog.
Pwschneider Jul 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm
What's Jerseys?
Jdulrich Jan 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm
You don't even know what the hell you are talking about lady
Jim (Doggybytes.ca) May 30, 2010 at 6:46 am
Canada's Ontario = the USA's Denver. Shameful!

I was at Starbuck's this afternoon and an older gentleman and his wife came in and sat at the table next to me. The man looked like he was in rough shape, and mentioned to me that he was 79 years old.

Anyway, we got talking about dogs, I told him that I have a pit bull. His wife had no problem with that, but he went on to say that if countries like England and other forward thinking democratic European countries have pit bull bans there must be a good reason for it.

I tried to explain, but to no avail.
RonM May 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm
That is based on old "health department" rules and regs, I'm guessing? Note that I believe you'll see big regional differences as well: Canada has Provinces that are like US States, and each has rules and culture different than each other. In BC I've seen much more open policy towards dogs, for example.
RonM May 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm
Oh ya, everyone knew it wouldn't work, but there was too much of an outcry to let anything like science get in the way of public policy. :P (and bite stats are the same as they were before, of course, as they tend to be in all jurisdictions that have had BSL implemented.)
RonM May 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm
All is good, thanks! Just got really busy. Did go on a vacation with family and dog to the SW of the US and used your site for some ideas on it, so thanks!

And sorry this post came off so negative -- it's only really a hassle with any of the "fat head" breeds, and really people here are TYPICALLY good about everything, it just sucks when a law like this comes in, because it's terribly hard to remove it afterwords, and the breeders and enthusiasts pay more of a price than the average tourist type.
Rod@GoPetFriendly May 26, 2010 at 8:12 pm
It really is easy. I would think the problem for most people traveling into Canada is not having a passport! We love Montreal, but are especially fond of "Old Montreal" - more open and easier to walk with the dogs.
Rod@GoPetFriendly May 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm
Interesting. In our border crossings, there has been only one time where we were not questioned about the dogs' rabies vaccination.
Rod@GoPetFriendly May 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm
Exactly! A tip of the hat to @maggiemarton and her campaign to #endBSL (no matter what country) over at Oh My Dog!
Rod@GoPetFriendly May 26, 2010 at 8:07 pm
Hi Ron. Haven't "talked" to you in awhile! Thanks for adding this and your comment below, as well. Hope all is well.
Rod@GoPetFriendly May 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm
Just Ontario. Actually, the biggest challenge we face in Canada is that dogs are generally not welcome at restaurants with outdoor seating.
Life With Dogs May 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm
That is far easier than I thought. I live 45 minutes from the border and always assumed it would be a hassle. Montreal, here we come!
Karen Friesecke May 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm
On a happier non-BSL note, I've crossed the border to the US dozens of times with no problem. I always have Jerseys vaccination certificate with me and have only been asked to produce it one time.
michelechollow May 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Rod, I was reading, and enjoying the post and then I get to the BSL part of the story. How scary. We have got to educate people about this. Ugh!
RonM May 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm
It was a string of horrific attacks, often against kids, however, as always, the press got a hold of it and any time anything dog related happened it was immediately on Page One, and the government was requested to "do something" -- so they did. Oddly, we asked for it, basically.
RonM May 26, 2010 at 5:11 pm
I'd like to say that the BSL comment is overstated... But it isn't. I'm an owner of South African Boerboels and I travel with a folder of full pedigree information in my car at all times. I talked to a lawyer about another dog related issue, and they pointed out a Dogo Argentino (a Mastiff style dog not at all like a pitbull, except for the short hair I guess) who was grabbed under the law.

Apparently some of the sweeping powers were added to allow the police more loopholes to get into biker compounds or something, but the end result is that if a bylaw officer -- based on visual inspection -- determines your dog is aggressive (and who's doesn't look that way when someone is banging on the door??) they will be able to search and seize with whatever force is required, including euthanization. Astounding powers.

Now, in theory these powers will only be used on "bad guys" but already in practice it is used pretty regularly, according to the lawyer who was cleaning up a bunch of the cases.

Finally, one thing I noticed after some travel in the US: On the West Coast, people seemed to take big dogs everywhere, they are in the truck when you're at the store, or even in the stores, etc. -- eople seem more dog-aware. They have more of a dog culture.

On the east coast, it seems more likely that if you leave your window open some idiot will try to pet your Schutzhund dogs (and then act surprised when they snap at you) or someone will just call the police because "there's a dog trapped in a car!" (even if it's 50F and you're parked in the shade.)

For example, I've had a guy in Ontario pouring water on my dogs in the car trying to "rescue them" from the heat (they're African!!) when I stopped to drop off a letter, while on the other hand while on the west coast I had a GSD in a shipping office with me and they told me "you don't need to put him on a leash!" so he wandered around and everyone pet him and gave him treats. :) )

So... keep a bit more room for "lack of pet culture" as I'd call it if you're traveling out of your usual area, and Ontario is increasingly like that, sadly.

Ron
Mary Haight May 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm
How draconian. I detest these laws - nothing more than a legalized witch hunt. Thanks for letting people know it would be dangerous to travel through this Province. It would be dangerous to travel there at all with any dog. The law of the land altho I didn't read it all yet, says they can do whatever they want with any dog - all they have to do is say your boxer looks like a pit bull or part pit bull and your dog is toast. Not pet friendlly, not guest friendly, why bother at all?
This One Wild Life May 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm
BSL is a frightening policy, something worth fighting in any country. Thanks for the heads up! This is good reminder to look into the law of any place one might consider traveling!
deborahflick May 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm
I thought Canada was better than that. Horrible.
Rod@GoPetFriendly May 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm
I am not a BSL expert, but this law seems the most severe I've read. It would be interesting to know what events led up to such a draconian measure.
Karen Friesecke May 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm
I've met a few Boerboels, they're pretty friendly dogs! Since you do own boerboels that *could* be mistaken for pit bulls by some dumb by-law officer, it might be in your best interest to purchase a video camera incase law enforcement comes knocking. According to the Dog Owners Liability Act, if the dog is on YOUR private property, law enforcement MUST HAVE A WARRANT to seize a dog barring "exigent" circumstances. Having the camera would document everything and would hopefully keep law enforcement from doing anything shifty, like bullying a homeowner into surrendering their dog. Since I live in Brampton I took special interest in the "pit bull" case and was astonished when I found out that the dogs were seized without a warrant. Law enforcement totally trampled over the legal rights of the Gaspar and Branco Families and they were bullied into giving up their dogs. You can see my post here; http://www.doggiestylish.com/store/2010/05/brampton-pit-bull-saga-over/
egoebelbecker May 26, 2010 at 5:52 pm
And here you can see how effective the ban has not been: http://btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2010/05/another-bill-on-the-table-to-repeal-bsl-in-ontario.html
egoebelbecker May 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Wow, the idea that the police could take my dog and euthanize him because he has a big head makes me say "I'll stick to civilized vacation spots."