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The thought of 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 to Canada and many 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 of this post.
Documents People Need
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:
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 younger than 16 who are 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 child’s parent or legal guardian, 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 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.
Documents Your Dog Needs 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 statement 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.
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, and 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 with an unvaccinated puppy. (See “Returning to the US” below.)
If you get to the border and 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. In addition, you will be charged administrative fees of $55.00 + tax for the first animal, and $30.00 + tax for each additional animal.
While the Canada Border Services Agency may refer any animal presented at the border for secondary inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as long as your dog is healthy, it’s unlikely this will happen to you.
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.
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. Of course, 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.
Food and Treats
Travelers are allowed to 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 U.S.
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 or 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!
Documents Your Dog Needs to Return to the U.S.
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 without proper rabies vaccination records on August 11, 2014.
Proof of Rabies Vaccination
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which oversee the entry of pets into the United States, now require that all dogs be properly vaccinated prior to entering the United States. These requirements apply to all dogs, including service animals such as guide dogs for the blind.
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
Further, dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies previously must be vaccinated at least 30 days prior to arrival at the border.
That means that a puppy (or dog for whom there is no record of previous vaccinations, like rescue dogs) could receive a vaccination for rabies on January 1 and travel immediately to Canada. (Canada imposes no waiting period between the time of inoculation and border crossing.) But that dog would have to wait until January 31st to cross the border back into the US, to meet the 30-day waiting period imposed at the US border.
Since puppies are not vaccinated for rabies until they are 3 months old, the youngest a dog can be when crossing the border into the U.S. is 4 months of age. This is true whether the dog’s trip originated in the U.S. or another country.
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.
Exemptions from the rabies vaccination requirement can be requested and will be reviewed individually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approval must be received in writing prior to arriving 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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