How to Bring Your Pets to Canada

Published on: February 22nd, 2023

Nearly all families would say they consider their pets essential members of their families. And as such, many wonder how they can bring their pets to Canada with them when looking into Canadian immigration. Fortunately, while there are certain requirements and restrictions for individuals moving to Canada with pets, import laws allow most domestic pets to be brought into the country.

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Canadian Import Guidelines for Animals

When bringing your pet to Canada, you are technically engaging in the importation of animals to Canada. All import and export of animals to Canada are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) which has inspectors on duty at all Canadian ports of entry (POE) in order to regulate the import of animals. The exact requirements and restrictions vary depending on the type of animal, species, country of origin, health status, and purpose of import, so newcomers should be sure to check the CFIA website prior to travelling to Canada.

The requirements for importing pets vary according to the factors listed above. It may be necessary for some pet owners to obtain a permit allowing them to bring their pet to Canada, or they may require a certificate from a veterinarian stating that their pet has no diseases. In some cases, pets are held by CFIA agents in quarantine for certain periods of time prior to being allowed to enter Canada. Please be sure that you adequately understand the requirements for your pet in order to ensure you won’t have any problems entering the country.

Below are the import requirements and restrictions for some of the most commonly imported pets, as well as resources for importing all varieties of pets.

Bringing Your Dog to Canada

While restrictions do exist on the import of dogs, as long as your dog is healthy and disease free, you should be able to bring your pup to Canada as long as you follow the proper procedures.

Personal vs Commercial Import

The first step to importing dogs to Canada is determining if the dog is being imported for personal use or for commercial use:

Personal Import:
The import of a dog (regardless of age) that is personally owned by a Canadian resident as a pet; or as a service dog that is accompanied by the person to whom the dog is assigned.

Commercial Import:
The import of a dog for sale, adoption, breeding, show, exhibition, scientific research, or animal welfare organizations.

The majority of pets will be classified as personal imports, but if your dog is not travelling with you, or if a dog is being brought into the country for sale, then the dog qualifies as a commercial import and will require a permit if older than 8 months. Applications for permits should be submitted 30 days prior to travel and can be accessed on the CFIA website.

Dogs who qualify as personal imports do not require a permit to enter Canada. However, even personally imported dogs will require some documentation.

Documentation and Inspection Required for Dogs

All dogs entering Canada require proof of all necessary vaccines, depending on the age of the dog. A dog that is less than 3 months of age at the time of the import does not require rabies vaccination.

Most dogs imported into Canada will undergo an inspection by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) which has agents at every Canadian port of entry (POE). As well, in certain circumstances, dogs may require inspection by a CFIA agent. Dog owners should use the CFIA Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) to determine if their dog will require a CFIA inspection and plan accordingly.

The CBSA inspection for animals is $31.27 + tax for the first animal in a shipment, plus an additional $5.21 + tax for each additional animal. If a dog does not meet Canada’s import requirements for rabies certification then it will be subject to additional fees and will be required to undergo vaccination against rabies at the owner’s expense within two weeks of arrival.

Canada does not require a microchip or tattoo identification for dogs imported as personal pets, however, dogs under 8 months of age imported under the commercial category must be identified by an electronic microchip.

If travelling to Canada by plane, pet owners should check with their airline as many airlines will require additional documentation and travel restrictions for dogs.

With all of this in mind, dog owners should feel confident in their abilities to bring their canine friends along with them to Canada.

Bringing Your Cat to Canada

Canada does have some restrictions and requirements for our feline counterparts, but as long as you follow the required procedure, you shouldn’t have any trouble bringing your cat with you to Canada.

Rabies Vaccination Requirements

The biggest health and safety concern with the import of cats is the transmission of the viral disease, rabies. For this reason, all cat owners bringing their domestic cats to Canada must be prepared to prove their cat is free of the disease. There are two methods cat owners can take:

Rabies Vaccination Certificate: A cat owner can obtain a certificate from their veterinarian attesting to the fact that their cat has received the rabies vaccine. The exact requirements for this certificate are listed on the CFIA website. The European Union pet passport is an acceptable alternative as long as all required information is included.

Veterinary Certificate: Cat owners bringing cats from a rabies-free country may obtain a veterinary certificate attesting to the fact that the pet is being imported from a country where rabies has not occurred within the six months preceding the travel to Canada.

If a cat is not certified according to the import requirements, the owner will be required, at their own expense, to have the cat vaccinated against rabies within a specified period of time and provide the vaccination record to a CFIA office.

Documentation and Inspection Required for Cats

Cats less than 3 months in age are exempt from import restrictions, but all cats older than 3 months are subject to import requirements. Cats do not have to be quarantined when entering Canada, nor do they require a health certificate or import permit.

The only document required for domestic cats is a preventative measure regarding rabies disease. Cats are required to have documentation showing they are rabies free and have been properly vaccinated or are from a rabies-free country.

Most cats imported into Canada will undergo an inspection by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) which has agents at every Canadian port of entry (POE). It is not necessary to notify border agents in advance of travel with cats, as there will always be an agent authorized to perform such an inspection.

The CBSA inspection for animals is $30 + tax for the first animal in a shipment, plus an additional $5 + tax for each additional animal. If a cat does not meet Canada’s import requirements for rabies certification then it will be subject to additional fees and will be required to undergo vaccination against rabies at the owner’s expense within two weeks of arrival.

Canada does not require a microchip or tattoo identification for pet cats. If travelling to Canada by plane, pet owners should check with their airline as many airlines will require additional documentation and travel restrictions for cats.

If a cat is not domestic, it will be subject to a different set of requirements. Non-domestic cat owners should consult the CFIA Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) to determine import requirements.

With all of this in mind, cat owners should feel confident bringing their feline friends along on their journey to a new life in Canada.

Bringing Other Pets to Canada

For those families wishing to travel with other pets, the CFIA has specific requirements for all types of pet imports. To learn more about the requirements for your pet, consult the CFIA’s resource here.

General Tips to Prepare for Your Move to Canada

While the requirements and factors can vary a bit depending on the factors listed above, there are some general tips to think about when considering how to bring your pet to Canada.

  1. Make sure to gather all appropriate documentation well in advance of your planned travel date to ensure you have everything you need. Some of the most commonly required forms and documentation for animals being brought into Canada include:
    • Certification of Rabies vaccination (for mammals from countries that aren’t recognized as rabies-free)
    • A veterinary certificate (for mammals from countries that are recognized as rabies-free)
    • Proof of your pet’s age (specifically for pets that would require a rabies vaccine but are younger than 3 months old)
    • Veterinary certificates against Avian Influenza (for birds being imported from countries outside of the United State)
  2. Be sure to check with your vet to make sure that your pet is healthy enough to travel. Moving to a new country is stressful for everyone involved, including your animal companions. Make sure to check with your vet to ensure the health of your pet and get their recommendations on the best and healthiest ways to travel with your pet.
  3. Ensure that you have the proper travel container for your pet. If travelling by transit such as by plane, there are often specific guidelines that each airline will have regarding pet containers. While these vary there are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
    • Your pets travel container should allow your pet enough room to stand, sit, lay down, and turn around
    • Have plenty of ventilation
    • Have a water spout or dispenser to prevent dehydration
  4. If travelling for a long time, be sure to plan out ways to give them a break from their containers. Many airports have specific areas for pets to be let out to use the bathroom, eat and stretch a bit. It’s a good idea to look into this a bit before travelling so your pet isn’t kept in their travel case for too long of a duration.

 

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