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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 there’s really no need to worry! 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.

First, it’s a common belief that you must have an encyclopedic knowledge of hockey to get into the country. That’s not true, 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 “Breed Specific Legislation” 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 who are planning to move permanently will likely need a visa. But if you’re just visiting, you can stay in Canada up to six months with proof of U.S. citizenship and identification.

A U.S. passport will serve as both proof of citizenship and identification. And, for those who meet the requirements, these additional forms 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)
 The Canadian and U.S. flags flying side-by-side

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 accommodations by searching online.

Order GoPetFriendly.com's The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip

Documents Needed For Traveling With Pets to Canada

Before heading to the border with an animal, make sure you understand the Canadian import and travel requirements. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency sets the policies for traveling with your pets to Canada. Their officers inspect and can refuse entryconfiscate, or detain an animal if:

  • it is undeclared, including family pets
  • you do not have the necessary permits/certificates
  • it is suspected of being sick or infected with a pest or disease
  • the animal is transported in a non-humane way and not kept safe from harm and injury

Proof of Rabies Vaccination

The only document that dogs older than 3 months require is  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. A licensed veterinarian must issue the certificate 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).

The vaccination will be considered valid for one year, unless otherwise indicated. 

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

 

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

The regulations provide no exceptions to the rabies vaccination requirement. Dogs who have had a titers test, or whose veterinarian has recommended against administering the vaccine due to age or health, are not exempt.

Arriving at the Canadian border without a proper rabies certificate will likely mean jumping through some additional hoops. First, 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 of $55.00 + tax for the first animal plus $30.00 + tax for each additional animal. These fees are due when crossing the border.

 

Health Certificate When Entering Canada

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, this is unlikely to happen.

If a dog appears to be ill, the border agents can 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 a bit of a hassle, but it’s easier than being held up at the border!

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

READ MORE ⇒  Tips for Traveling to Canada with a Cat

Personality Traits of Adventure Cats

Pets Must Be Transported Safely

Canada also sets guidelines for the humane transport of all animals. To ensure your pets are safe while you’re traveling, follow these suggestions:

Contain your pet – Animals that could distract the driver should be contained. Some animals, such as cats, might be more comfortable in a vehicle when they are in a carrier. Pets should not be allowed to roam freely in the back of pick-up trucks or be exposed in any way to flying debris.

Watch the weather – Animals should not be kept in parked vehicles for long periods of time, especially in hot or cold weather. If you must leave your pet in a vehicle for a short period of time, ensure it has fresh water and leave windows open a little on either side of the vehicle to create a cross-breeze.

Provide food, water and rest – On long trips, make sure your pet has food and water and that you make regular stops so it can rest or get out and walk around.

Taking Pet Food and Treats into Canada

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

  • The pet food or treats must be purchased in the US, 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 it’s great for traveling because 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 dog is 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. Canada is not among the list of countries considered high-risk on the CDC website, so proof of rabies vaccination is no longer required for dogs coming to the U.S. from Canada.

Health Certificate When Entering the U.S.

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.

READ MORE ⇒  The Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip

Taking Pet Food and Treats into the U.S.

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 is 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 “pitbull-type” dogs from the province. Police and animal control officers can search for and seize any dog deemed to be a “pitbull-type” based on visual inspection.

If the dog is determined to be a “pitbull-type,” the dog is euthanized, though it may not have broken any other law. Here is a summary of the law from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

READ MORE ⇒  Tips for Traveling with Pitbulls

Pit bull dog with his head out the car window

No exceptions to this law are provided for tourists traveling with their pets. So, anyone having a dog that could be mistaken for a pitbull is urged to carry documents proving your dog’s pedigree when traveling in Ontario.

Throughout the rest of Canada, there are municipalities with breed restrictions and bans, but they can be easily avoided. Visit the Justice for Bullies website for a map of locations with breed specific laws.

 

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  • Sierra says:

    I am traveling with my puppy, she clearly looks like a mut but doesn’t have identifiable pitbull features. I did a test to see what she was and she is more than half pitbull, but she looks more like an Australian Shepard, with long hair. Do you think this will be a problem? On all her papers her breed says Australian Shepard Mix.

  • Regis says:

    Hi, so is Rabies the only vaccine needed? If I don’t want to do the yearly vaccines anymore and just do the rabies one can I still travel with my dog to Canada?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Regis! Yes, rabies is the only vaccination that’s required to drive with your pet across the border to Canada. I should mention that if you plan to fly, the airline might require additional vaccinations. I hope that helps and wish you happy travels!

  • Daniela says:

    Hi,
    I’m moving permanently to Toronto and I want to bring my french bulldog. However most airlines do not allow to travel with them. As they have a risk of death during the flight. I have never heard about this. Do you know anything about this or could advise how to bring a dog from south america?

    Thank you

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Daniela! Congratulations on your upcoming move. Yes, because of the risk of overheating, the airlines have restrictions on flying short-faced dogs in cargo. If possible, it’s better to carry your dog on with you. If not, look at the restrictions and determine if the there are some times of the year (usually when it’s cooler) when short-faced dogs are allowed to fly. If you’re still not having any luck, I’d recommend contacting a company like PetRelocation.com. They help people move with their pets all over the world and will likely have more suggestions for you. Good luck!

  • Stan says:

    We are thinking of a summer vacation in Ontario; we have a dog and see no issue with the Rabies Vaccine. His dog food is a high quality (Veterinary prescription diet of Royal Canin – Selected Protein) commercial dog food, but for vacation we typically weigh and measure his food to 110 grams per meal and put it in zip lock bags to make the portions easy to use when we feed him. This would Probably constitute and Opened Bag. Will that cause us difficulty if we put the portioned bags back in the original bad for easy identification?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Stan! It sounds like you have a great trip in the works. You’re right – the requirement is that the dog food be in an unopened bag, under the theory that you could replace the food with one that has prohibited ingredients. That being said, It seems a pretty rare that the border agents check the pet food. But I don’t recommend rolling the dice, because if you are selected for examination you’ll likely have to throw all the dog food away. I hope that helps and that you all have a great trip!

  • Kristina Kovacic says:

    Hi, i have adopted a puppy from Puerta Vallarta, due to flight restrictions/cancellations, i am tempted to drive dow to pick her up…i am aware of all the required paper work, my question is do you think i will be allowed to drive across the Canadian border, there and back..without a problem? Please advise
    Kristina

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Kristina! My understanding is that there are still travel restrictions in place between Canada, the US, and Mexico due to coronavirus. And the latest news I saw was that experts were expecting the restrictions to be extended beyond their original durations. I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you and wish you all the best with your new puppy.

  • Alex Parker says:

    Hey, I like how you have explained everything in your blog. I came for work in the US, and now due to this pandemic, I’m stuck here. But meanwhile, Quarantine, I have made a very good dog friend, and I am planning to take it with me to Canada after the situation gets better. I have no legal documentation as it belongs to my uncle. Though he has handed him over to me, he has never traveled abroad with him. There are no documentations. What is the possible chance to travel with this situation?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Alex! I’d recommend having your uncle sign a letter saying that he’s given the dog to you. You’ll also want to find out if the dog is current on all his vaccinations. You’ll need a valid rabies certificate to drive across the border into Canada, and might need other documents if you’re planning to fly. (Check with the airline for their requirements.) I hope that helps, and good luck with your new buddy!

      • Alex Parker says:

        Hi Amy! Thanks for your recommendation. Forgot to view your reply lol was busy reading other articles of yours. My uncle had to travel to his native place because of the Covid-19 so he left timely before the shutdown. Is it possible to have the adoption letter in scan form with his signatures on it? I have never traveled with a pet before and have no idea if the airlines will accept a scanned copy or not. And one more thing can I use the previous rabies certificate or I have to take him to vet for a new one? I’m so glad to get guidelines from your blogs. Thanks a lot buddy!

        • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

          No worries, Alex! I’m sure a scanned version will be fine. And the previous rabies certificate should work, too — especially if it has your uncle’s name on it and you have the letter from your uncle saying the dog is now yours.

  • Jay says:

    Hi do I need to register my dog to an address upon international arrival?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Jay! If you’re driving across the border with your pet, you will not need to register him to an address. If you’re flying in, the requirements might be different. The airline you’re flying or Canadian customs should be able to help you with this question. Safe travels!

  • Carol Dilworth says:

    Hello! I live in Michigan but would like to purchase a dog in Ontario. Is this legal? In returning to the US, will customs require a bill of sale? Any difficulties in doing this?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Hi Carol! Congratulations on your pending new addition. No, there’s nothing illegal about purchasing a puppy and bringing him or her across the border into the US. And the paperwork you receive from the breeder should cover any questions you might get at customs. Good luck!

  • Amanda Lucia Drew Drew says:

    Hi, i am about to buy a labrador poppy! She will be 7 weeks old by the time we fly to Canada . Any suggestions apart of the requirements apart from vaccines ?

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Congratulations on your new addition, Amanda! At just 7 weeks old, your puppy won’t be able to be vaccinated. And until she has her shots, she shouldn’t be in places where she could catch something – meaning anywhere other dogs have been. That’s why most pups stay with their mom until they’re a little older. Traveling with such a youngster is a bit risky, and I wish you both all the best.

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