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Traveling With Pets to Canada Just Got Easier

The idea of traveling with your pets 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’re happy to share the tricks we’ve learned.

Contrary to popular belief, an encyclopedic knowledge of hockey is not required to get into the country. But there are some documents you’ll need. 

And if you’re planning to travel to or through Ontario with a bully breed, please pay special attention to the section at the end of this post.

Tips for Traveling with Dogs to Canada

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Documents People Need To Travel Between the US and Canada By Car

Most U.S. citizens can travel freely to and from Canada, as long as you present the right paperwork at the border. Those traveling for work, school, or with the intention moving permanently, will likely need a visa. But if you’re just visiting, you can stay in Canada up to six months with with just proof of U.S. citizenship and identification.

A U.S. passport will serve as proof of both citizenship and identification. And, for those who meet the requirements, these additional options for 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)

Traveling with Children

Children younger than 16 who are traveling with both parents can use their birth certificate as identification. However, only birth certificates issued by the Vital Records Department in the state of birth are acceptable.

If you’re traveling with a child for whom you share 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.

Pet-Friendly Hotels in Canada

If you’ll be spending the night in Canada, you’ll also need to find a great pet-friendly hotel! Canada has many hotels that welcome pets, and it’s easy to find the perfect spot by searching online.

Order GoPetFriendly.com's The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip  The Canadian and U.S. flags flying side-by-side

Documents Needed For Traveling With Pets to Canada

Proof of Rabies Vaccination

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency sets the policies for traveling with your pets to Canada. They require that dogs older than 3 months have a current rabies vaccination. For dogs younger than three months, proof of age must be provided upon request.

Here is the official statement describing what must be included on the rabies certificate:

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 traveling to Canada with a cat, we have a special blog post just for you!


Canada does not impose a quarantine on pets arriving from any country. Additionally, Canada does not require a vaccination waiting period. Your is welcome to enter Canada immediately after he or she receives the rabies vaccination.

 

What If You Don’t Have a Valid Rabies Certificate?

Traveling with your pets to Canada without a proper rabies certificate will mean jumping through additional hoops. Your dog will have to be vaccinated against rabies within two weeks of arrival. Once the vaccination is administered, you’ll have to submit the vaccination record to a Canadian Food Inspection Agency office.

In addition to the cost of the vaccination, you will be charged administrative fees. These fees must be paid when crossing the border, and are $55.00 + tax for the first animal plus $30.00 + tax for each additional animal.

Health Certificate

Generally, health certificates are not necessary when traveling with your pets to Canada. It is 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 a dog appears to be ill, the border agents may request a health certificate from a veterinarian. Their primary concern is that the dog’s condition is not contagious. We recommend that anyone traveling with a dog whose health could be questioned get a health certificate from their vet before their trip. It’s easier than potentially being held up at the border.

Dogs flying to Canada must meet the requirements of the airline on which they’ll be traveling. Most carriers require that all pets have a current health certificate.

Food and Treats

Visitors traveling with pets to Canada from the U.S. are allowed to bring 20 kg (44 pounds) of pet food and treats into Canada, if they meets all of the following requirements:

  • 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
  • The animal that will eat the products must accompany the traveler at the time of entry
  • The products must be fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada

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!

Ty and Buster from GoPetFriendly.com eating dehydrated dog food from The Honest Kitchen

 

Documents Needed for Traveling With Pets To The U.S.

All dogs must appear healthy to enter the United States. And depending upon what country the dogs are coming from, they may need a valid rabies vaccination certificate.

Dogs Coming from Canada No Longer Need Proof of Rabies Vaccination

In December 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their rabies vaccination requirements for dogs entering the United States. Now, only dogs coming into the U.S. from counties considered high-risk for importing rabies must have a rabies certificate. The list of countries can be viewed on the CDC website, and Canada is not among them. So, dogs coming to the U.S. from Canada no longer require a rabies vaccination certificate.

Health Certificates

Like in Canada, if your dog is healthy he won’t need a health certificate to come 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.

Pet Food and Treats

Up to 50 pounds of pet food purchased in Canada can be brought into the United States, provided the following requirements are met:

  • The food does not contain lamb, sheep, or goat meat
  • The food must be in the original packaging, shelf-stable (not needing refrigeration), and unopened
  • The label on the packaging must clearly list the ingredients and country of origin
  • The food must be manufactured in Canada or the United States

 

In Real Life

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.Ty and Buster from GoPetFriendly.com sitting on rocks at Lake Agnes near Lake Louise, AB, Canada

Breed Specific Legislation

Province of Ontario

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.

Pit bull dog with his head out the car window

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.

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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  • Beverly says:

    I am purchasing a puppy in the usa and bringing her back under 3 months will i have a problem and do i have to pay taxes on her i will be driving and passing at peace bridge

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Beverly! No, crossing from the US to Canada with your pup will not be a problem. Just make sure you have documentation that shows she’s less than 3 months old. As far as I know, there are no fees for taking pets across the border from the US and Canada. Congratulations on your new addition and waggin’ trails to you both!

  • Tara C. says:

    I have a medical alert service dog she is a Chihuahua other than her vet record for rabies and her health letter is there anything else I would need or might want to bring due to her being a service dog ? Also what are disability laws regarding service dogs in Canada? Are yhey similar to the ADA laws we have here in the United States?

  • Megan says:

    Hello, I’m taking three pomeranians to Canada for 4 days vacation and two of my pomeranians are very scared of strangers and they bark crazy and can bite. Will there be a problem when they check the dogs? Are they going to touch the dogs? Also, I just found out my veternarians didnt write my legal first name on the vet records but have the right last name. Will they say something about the name and the address?

    • Megan says:

      I am driving there

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Megan!

      In my experience, the most the border agents have ever done is glanced at Ty and Buster. And we’ve crossed the border numerous time. My suggestion would be to have a carrier that you can put the dogs in just in case you’re randomly selected and they take a look in your car.

      As far as the name on your rabies paperwork, I guessing the vet used a shortened version of your legal first name, and that should be a problem. You last name matches, you can explain any difference in the first name on the vaccination certificate vs. your passport, and the description of your dogs on the rabies certificate matches the dogs you have with you. I think you’ll be fine!

      Waggin’ trails and safe travels!

  • Julia says:

    I have a Rottie massif mix look like a Rottie do the consider that a bully breed ?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Julia,
      According to the law, the following breeds are considered pit bulls:
      Under the amendments to DOLA, pit bull is defined as:

      A pit bull terrier
      A Staffordshire bull terrier
      An American Staffordshire terrier
      An American pit bull terrier
      A dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics substantially similar to any of those dogs.

      Rotties are not on the list, and therefore not considered a “bully breed” in Ontario. I hope this helps and that you have a great trip!

  • R says:

    Do they euthanize dogs that are waiting in line on the border to get into Canada or do they euthanize dogs that are in Canada roaming about? I hope they give us the option to return to the states! after writing this out, it seems like stupid questions.. haha

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      A dog that is found in Ontario in violation of the breed ban can be confiscated and euthanized, R. The dog does not need to be “roaming around.” It could be inside a car, a hotel, a home. Whether you’d be given the opportunity to return to the US with the dog is a question I cannot answer. That would be up to the law enforcement officer – similar to getting a warning instead of a ticket when a person is caught speeding.

      I hope that helps! Safe travels to you.

  • Lynnette says:

    Another website says you can take 2 pet dogs into Canada. Is that true? We have 2 shin tzus and a semi-mini dachshund.

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Lynnette! There is no limit on the number of pets you can take into Canada (and bring back), as long as they are your personal pets. I hope that helps, and that you all have a great trip!

  • Vanessa says:

    We’re planning a holiday visit to Winsor and taking “Lucy” our 7 year old shih-Tzu/bichon mix; we changed vets and she received her rabies vaccine from the old vet. Will the new vet be able to give us an acceptable cert or must we ask the old vet since what I read stated it needed the vet’s signature?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Vanessa! It sounds like you have a great trip in the works.

      You’ll probably need to reach out to your old vet for the rabies certificate, because he or she will have all the pertinent information (like the batch # of the vaccine, etc.). Hopefully they can email you the certificate without any hassle.

      I hope it all goes well and that you have a great trip. Waggin’ trails!

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