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Taking your dog to Canada may make you nervous, but that doesn’t need to be the case! Our dogs have traveled with us across the border many times over the years, and we’ve learned a few tricks we’re happy to share.
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 of this post.
Most US citizens over the age of 16 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:
Children younger than 16 who are traveling with both parents can use their birth certificate as identification. Acceptable birth certificates must be issued by the Vital Records Department in the state of birth.
If you’re traveling with a child for whom you have shared custody, or you’re not the child’s parent or legal guardian, additional documents will be needed. You can learn more about 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 also 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.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversees the entry of pets into Canada. They take into consideration the rabies status of the country of origin in determining what documents are needed to cross the border. 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 statement on what the rabies certificate must include:
Domestic or pet dogs may enter Canada if accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate. Certificates must be issued by a licensed veterinarian in English or French and clearly identify the dog by breed, color, weight, etc.
The certificate must state that the pet is currently vaccinated against rabies and indicate the trade name of the rabies vaccine used, including serial number and duration of validity (up to three years).
If the duration of validity is not indicated on the certificate, the vaccine will be considered to be valid for one year.
If you’re driving to Canada with your cat, we have a special blog post just for you!
Canada does not impose a quarantine on pets arriving from any country. Additionally, there is no waiting period between the time your dog is vaccinated for rabies and the time he or she 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 the same is not true when crossing the border back into the US. (See “Returning to the US” below.)
If you get to the border and do not have a proper rabies vaccination certificate for your dog, you’ll be required to have your dog vaccinated against rabies within a specified period of time (usually two weeks). Once the vaccination is administered, you’ll need to provide the vaccination record to a Canadian Food Inspection Agency office.
In addition to the cost of the vaccination, you will be charged administrative fees of $55.00 + tax for the first animal, and $30.00 + tax for each additional animal.
Healthy dogs do not need a health certificate to cross the border into Canada. But, 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.
It’s also possible for the border agents to refer any animal crossing the border for secondary inspection, but as long as your dog is healthy, it’s unlikely this will happen to you.
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 you won’t be held up at the border.
Dogs flying to Canada must meet the requirements of the airline on which they’ll be traveling, and most carriers require a current health certificate.
Travelers are allowed to bring pet food and treats into Canada, if they meets all of the following requirements:
For longer trips, or if you’re traveling through Canada to or from Alaska, consider taking a dehydrated pet food with you. We love The Honest Kitchen dog food and easy to travel with – a 10 pound box makes 40 pounds of food!
If you’ve crossed the border with your pets in the past, be aware that the United States enacted new requirements for dog entering the country on August 11, 2014.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now require that all dogs be properly vaccinated prior to entering the United States. These requirements apply to all dogs, including service and emotional support animals.
To be acceptable, the rabies vaccination certificate must include the following information:
Further, dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies previously must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival at the border.
Assume that a puppy or a dog for whom there was no record of previous vaccinations (like rescue dogs) receives a vaccination for rabies on January 1. That dog could travel immediately to Canada. Canada imposes no waiting period between the time of inoculation and border crossing. But, to meet the 30-day waiting period imposed by the US, the dog would have to wait until January 31st to cross back into the Untied States.
Since puppies are not vaccinated for rabies until they are 3 months old, a dog must be at least 4 months old to cross the border into the U.S. This is true whether the dog’s trip originated in the U.S. or another country.
Dogs who have been previously vaccinated for rabies, but whose 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.
Exemptions from the rabies vaccination requirement can be requested from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approval must be received in writing prior to arriving at the border into the United States. If you’re planning to travel with an unvaccinated dog, learn the steps you can take to ensure your travel plans are not derailed.
Like crossing into Canada, if your dog is healthy, you won’t need a health certificate for him to cross into the U.S. If there could be any question about his health, we recommend getting a health certificate from a veterinarian that states his condition is not contagious.
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 are not be allowed.
Food products should be commercially packaged and sealed with ingredients listed in English.
The requirements are pretty straight forward, but if you’re still losing sleep, here’s what it’s really like to cross the border with your pets.
Ontario has an ugly Breed Specific Law that bans “pit bull-type” dogs from the province. Police and animal control officers are granted sweeping powers to search for and seize any dog deemed to be a “pit bull-type” based on visual inspection.
If the dog is determined 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.
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.
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