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What are the rules around immigrating to Canada with pets?

Many of us have little furry guys that are more than just pets but who are members of our family, and as members of the family we surely don’t want to leave them behind. The good news is, you can bring your pets with you to Canada! So, don’t worry, your furry friends can accompany you on your immigration journey to Canada and can also come and enjoy their safe and secure Second Home along with you and your family.

This is a question that we get from time to time and we wanted to take the time to go over in detail what you need to know so that you can prepare in advance to arrive with your friend and make sure he does not go through any extreme hardship while travelling internationally.

Who do Pet import and travel requirements apply? 

From time to time this will come up with people who are travelling for short duration although it generally comes up mostly for people who are immigrating to Canada. For clarity, pet imports and travel requirements

apply to the following situations:

  • Animals entering Canada permanently;
  • Animals in transit through Canada on their way to a final destination;
  • Animals entering Canada for a temporary visit; or
  • Canadian animals returning to Canada.

What do I need to know before I come to Canada?

Although your pets are welcome in Canada, there are rules and regulations that have to be followed to ensure your immigration journey with your pet is a smooth process. All pets must have all vaccines and an inspection will be done by the CBSA to ensure their vaccines are current. This is at the most basic level and most countries around the world have very similar requirements when it comes to the movement of animals or in this case the immigration of pets.

What do I need to know once I get to a Canadian Port of Entry (POE)?

You should know that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can refuse entry to Canada to any animal presented for their inspection. All pets need to be in good health with the documents to prove this at the time of arrival at the Canadian border. The process starts with the CBSA officer doing a visual inspection of the pet when you arrive at the point of entry (POE) to ensure there are no signs of illness.

If you are immigrating to Canada with an animal, you should ensure you do your part in the inspection process. It is recommended that you contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) office that is closest to the POE you are going to schedule your inspection. CFIA inspectors are not always on duty at the border, so contacting their office ahead of time can ensure an inspection can be carried out at your arrival without unnecessary delays. 

What if I’m flying into Canada?

Most airlines have specific requirements when transporting animals. It is strongly recommended to do some research on your airline before your flight and even contact them beforehand. There are different rules and fees associated with flying with your pets according to the regulations of individual airlines. For example, some airlines require special pet carriers for your pets while they fly. Others require a health certificate from a vet before the pet is allowed on their flight. There are many do’s and don’ts when it comes to flying with your animals and it is best to do your research before getting to the airport. As an example, we have included a link here to Air Canada where they speak about travelling with animals so that you can get a sense of their policies with respect to travelling. As an added tip if you are travelling with multiple airlines it would be best to do your reconnaissance and check all of the requirements upfront.

Immigrating with Your Dog

There are specifics around traveling with your dog compared to cats and other animals. Domestic dogs entering Canada do not have to be quarantined or require a microchip for identification purposes.

Dogs younger than three months old do not require a rabies vaccination. Dogs that are older than three months old may enter Canada with the following:

  • A rabies vaccination certificate*; OR
  • A veterinary certificate*.

*Rabies vaccination certificates and veterinary certificate requirements are defined below.

It should also be noted that some breeds of dogs are banned from Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba according to their legislation (Ontario’s Dog Owner’s Liability Act; Winnipeg’s Responsible Pet Ownership By-law). Dogs that are banned from entering Ontario and Winnipeg are American Staffordshire Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and their crosses. Make sure that you consult your province as well with relation to their requirements regarding dogs. Some examples of where to look are as follows:

Personal, Commercial, & Assistive Dog Imports

It is typical for people immigrating to Canada to bring their dogs under a personal import and no permit is required. But, if this is a commercial import, you will most likely need a permit. So, what is the difference between personal and commercial dog imports?

A personal import is the import of a dog that is personally owned as a pet or is a service dog to the accompanying person. A commercial import is the import of a dog for sale, adoption, breeding, or scientific research. If this is a commercial import and the dog is younger than eight months old, you must apply for an import permit at least 30 days before the dog is imported into Canada. A commercial dog under eight months old must also be identified by an electronic microchip.

If you are immigrating to Canada and you require an assistive dog – or a service dog – there are different guidelines that apply. A service dog is a dog that provides services to an individual who would be limited in their ability to perform certain tasks without assistance from their dog. A service dog is exempted from all import requirements provided the dog is accompanied by the person to whom the dog is assigned, and documentation is provided to support that the dog is certified to be a service animal by a recognized organization.

Immigrating with Your Cat

Are you coming to Canada with your cat? There are specifics about immigrating with cats compared to dogs and other animals. Domestic cats entering Canada do not have to be quarantined or require a microchip for identification purposes. Cats also do not require a health certificate or import permit.

Cats under three months old are exempt from import requirements including a rabies vaccination. Cats that are older than three months old must have the following to enter Canada:

  • A rabies vaccination certificate;* OR
  • A veterinary certificate.*

*Rabies vaccination certificates and veterinary certificate requirements are defined below.

Immigrating with Exotic Animals

Dogs and cats can travel to Canada without import permits. If you immigrating to Canada and have an exotic animal, such as snakes, birds, or reptiles, you will need a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit, issued by the CFIA.

Please note: It is illegal to travel into Canada with an exotic animal without an accompanying CITES permit and there can be significant fines and penalties, so make sure that you are aware of your obligations so that it does not lead to issues for you and your friend.

Fun fact: You can get your exotic pet a “pet passport” if you and your pet travel in and out of Canada often. A pet passport, or a Certificate of Ownership, is valid for three years, authorizes multiple exports and re-imports, and is recognized by many countries.

Immigrating with other Kinds of Animals

We recognize the many types of animals that an individual may immigrate to Canada with. This post has gone into detail with common house pets such as dogs, cats, and briefly about exotic animals.

Please note that there are specific requirements and important information for every type of animal.

It is strongly recommended to go through the specific checklist applicable to your pet on the Canadian government website before you travel to  Canada with that accompanying pet. 

What is a ‘rabies-free’ country?

As all pets need to be rabies free before entering Canada, a rabies vaccination certificate may be necessary if you are traveling from a country that is not recognized as rabies-free. If you are traveling from a rabies-free country, you will need a veterinary certificate that declares the pet’s origin. The following countries are recognized as rabies-free by the CFIA*:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Cayman Islands
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Ireland (Republic of)
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Pierre et Miquelon
  • Sweden
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay

 

 

 *Please note that the United States of America and Mexico are not recognized as rabies-free by Canada.

A Rabies Vaccination Certificate

If your pet originates from a country that is not recognized as rabies-free, you must provide a rabies vaccination certificate that must:

  • be written in English or French;
  • be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian;
  • identify the animal (as in breed, colour, and weight);
  • state that the animal is vaccinated against rabies;
  • indicate the date of vaccination;
  • indicate the trade name and the serial number of the licensed vaccine; and
  • specify the duration of immunity (otherwise, it will be considered valid for one year from the date of vaccination)

A Veterinary Certificate

If your pet originates from a rabies-free country, you must provide a veterinary certificate that must:

  • be written in English or French;
  • be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian;
  • identify the animal (breed, colour, and weight);
  • state that the animal has been in the exporting country since birth or for at least six (6) months immediately preceding shipment to Canada; and
  • be accompanied by documentation from a competent government authority, stating that rabies has not occurred in the country of origin for at least six (6) months immediately preceding the animal's shipment to Canada.

Importing Pet Food

When immigrating to Canada, you can bring a personal import of pet food into the country, but there are rules around this. To bring pet food into Canada…

  • The pet food must be less than 20kg;
  • The pet food must be a product of the United States and be commercially packaged;
  • The pet food must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the US;
  • The animal that will eat the food must accompany the traveler at the time of entry;
  • The imported food is fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler to Canada; and
  • The food is regulated by the CFIA.

Fees

Inspection fees– having your animal inspected at the border is $30.00 CAD plus $5.00 for each additional animal.

Rabies vaccines – these vary between $7.00 and $20.00 depending on where you bring your pet to get vaccinated.

Animal excess baggage fees – if you are traveling to Canada by plane, you will have to pay fees to check your animal for your flight. These fees differ from airline to airline but can range anywhere from $125.00 to $500.00 depending on the airline and size and type of your pet. You are recommended to check your airline’s policies on traveling with pets and the fees.

Conclusion

Hopefully this information is helpful and will provide you with a basis to plan for the transition for you and your pet to Canada or even transit through. As with anything related to international travel and settlement you must always plan in advance as the rules are not flexible when you are at a Port of Entry and have a very uncooperative Border Officer calling you out on something that is not lacking, as I am sure that you will agree that this will not make for a good day.


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