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Traveling with Your Dog to Canada

Tips for Traveling with Dogs to CanadaOur dogs have traveled with us across the border to Canada and back several 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 pay special attention to the section at the end of the post if you have a bully breed and you’re planning to travel through the Province of Ontario.

What YOU Will Need

If you are a run-of-the-mill adult US citizen, you need a passport to drive across the border to Canada. If you need to apply for or renew your passport, click here. Children ages 15 and under traveling with their parents need their birth certificate issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where they were born.

If you have some unusual circumstances, like being a divorced parent having or sharing custody of a child, Wikipedia has a good overview of the information you need to know and additional documents you’ll need to bring. If you’re still not finding what you need, contact US Customs and Border Protection or the Canada Border Services Agency.

If you’ll be spending the night in Canada, you’ll 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.

US and Canada Flags

What YOUR DOG Will Need

Canada’s entry requirements for pets take into consideration the rabies status of the country of origin, and the US is not a country that Canada recognizes as being rabies free. Therefore, you will need proof that your dog has a current rabies vaccination. Here is the official take on the required proof:

Domestic or pet dogs may enter Canada if accompanied by an original, valid rabies vaccination certificate, which is issued by a licensed veterinarian (a veterinarian who is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the country of origin) 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.

Canada does not impose a quarantine on a pet arriving from any country, and there is no waiting period between the time your dog is vaccinated for rabies and the time he is welcome to enter Canada. However, your dog will have to have been vaccinated at least 30 days prior to crossing the border back into the United States. (See the Update below.)

A rabies vaccination or certification is not required for pups less than three months of age crossing into Canada, but you’ll need to be pre-approved to cross the border back into the US with an unvaccinated puppy. (See the Update below.)

Still wondering what it’s really like to cross the border with your pets? Here’s what happened to us on our last trip to Canada and back.

Update: New Requirements for Dogs Entering the United States

On August 11, 2014, the United States enacted new requirements for dog entering the country without proper rabies vaccination records. In the past, pet owners could proceed across the border without proper documentation if they entered into an agreement to vaccinate their dog and isolate him until the inoculation took effect.

Due to an increase in requests for these agreements, an investigation was performed that revealed that many people were not complying with the requirements. Now all requests for confinement agreements will be be individually reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and must be pre-approved before crossing 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.

Traveling Through 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.

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.

Here is a summary of the law from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

Traveling With Your Cat To Canada

Driving across the border to Canada with your cat? We have a special blog post just for you!

Tips for Taking Your Cat to Canada from GoPetFriendly.com

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
Pet Friendly Hotels | Pet Friendly Destinations | Pet Friendly Activities


Comment Archive

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Vosdewael Aug 18, 2011 at 8:17 am
Is this also the case when coming from Europe? Thanks Renee
Pwschneider Jul 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm
What's Jerseys?
Jdulrich Jan 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm
You don't even know what the hell you are talking about lady
Jim (Doggybytes.ca) May 30, 2010 at 6:46 am
Canada's Ontario = the USA's Denver. Shameful!

I was at Starbuck's this afternoon and an older gentleman and his wife came in and sat at the table next to me. The man looked like he was in rough shape, and mentioned to me that he was 79 years old.

Anyway, we got talking about dogs, I told him that I have a pit bull. His wife had no problem with that, but he went on to say that if countries like England and other forward thinking democratic European countries have pit bull bans there must be a good reason for it.

I tried to explain, but to no avail.
RonM May 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm
That is based on old "health department" rules and regs, I'm guessing? Note that I believe you'll see big regional differences as well: Canada has Provinces that are like US States, and each has rules and culture different than each other. In BC I've seen much more open policy towards dogs, for example.
RonM May 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm
Oh ya, everyone knew it wouldn't work, but there was too much of an outcry to let anything like science get in the way of public policy. :P (and bite stats are the same as they were before, of course, as they tend to be in all jurisdictions that have had BSL implemented.)
RonM May 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm
All is good, thanks! Just got really busy. Did go on a vacation with family and dog to the SW of the US and used your site for some ideas on it, so thanks!

And sorry this post came off so negative -- it's only really a hassle with any of the "fat head" breeds, and really people here are TYPICALLY good about everything, it just sucks when a law like this comes in, because it's terribly hard to remove it afterwords, and the breeders and enthusiasts pay more of a price than the average tourist type.
Life With Dogs May 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm
That is far easier than I thought. I live 45 minutes from the border and always assumed it would be a hassle. Montreal, here we come!
Karen Friesecke May 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm
On a happier non-BSL note, I've crossed the border to the US dozens of times with no problem. I always have Jerseys vaccination certificate with me and have only been asked to produce it one time.
michelechollow May 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Rod, I was reading, and enjoying the post and then I get to the BSL part of the story. How scary. We have got to educate people about this. Ugh!
RonM May 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm
It was a string of horrific attacks, often against kids, however, as always, the press got a hold of it and any time anything dog related happened it was immediately on Page One, and the government was requested to "do something" -- so they did. Oddly, we asked for it, basically.
RonM May 26, 2010 at 5:11 pm
I'd like to say that the BSL comment is overstated... But it isn't. I'm an owner of South African Boerboels and I travel with a folder of full pedigree information in my car at all times. I talked to a lawyer about another dog related issue, and they pointed out a Dogo Argentino (a Mastiff style dog not at all like a pitbull, except for the short hair I guess) who was grabbed under the law.

Apparently some of the sweeping powers were added to allow the police more loopholes to get into biker compounds or something, but the end result is that if a bylaw officer -- based on visual inspection -- determines your dog is aggressive (and who's doesn't look that way when someone is banging on the door??) they will be able to search and seize with whatever force is required, including euthanization. Astounding powers.

Now, in theory these powers will only be used on "bad guys" but already in practice it is used pretty regularly, according to the lawyer who was cleaning up a bunch of the cases.

Finally, one thing I noticed after some travel in the US: On the West Coast, people seemed to take big dogs everywhere, they are in the truck when you're at the store, or even in the stores, etc. -- eople seem more dog-aware. They have more of a dog culture.

On the east coast, it seems more likely that if you leave your window open some idiot will try to pet your Schutzhund dogs (and then act surprised when they snap at you) or someone will just call the police because "there's a dog trapped in a car!" (even if it's 50F and you're parked in the shade.)

For example, I've had a guy in Ontario pouring water on my dogs in the car trying to "rescue them" from the heat (they're African!!) when I stopped to drop off a letter, while on the other hand while on the west coast I had a GSD in a shipping office with me and they told me "you don't need to put him on a leash!" so he wandered around and everyone pet him and gave him treats. :) )

So... keep a bit more room for "lack of pet culture" as I'd call it if you're traveling out of your usual area, and Ontario is increasingly like that, sadly.

Mary Haight May 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm
How draconian. I detest these laws - nothing more than a legalized witch hunt. Thanks for letting people know it would be dangerous to travel through this Province. It would be dangerous to travel there at all with any dog. The law of the land altho I didn't read it all yet, says they can do whatever they want with any dog - all they have to do is say your boxer looks like a pit bull or part pit bull and your dog is toast. Not pet friendlly, not guest friendly, why bother at all?
This One Wild Life May 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm
BSL is a frightening policy, something worth fighting in any country. Thanks for the heads up! This is good reminder to look into the law of any place one might consider traveling!
deborahflick May 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm
I thought Canada was better than that. Horrible.
Karen Friesecke May 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm
I've met a few Boerboels, they're pretty friendly dogs! Since you do own boerboels that *could* be mistaken for pit bulls by some dumb by-law officer, it might be in your best interest to purchase a video camera incase law enforcement comes knocking. According to the Dog Owners Liability Act, if the dog is on YOUR private property, law enforcement MUST HAVE A WARRANT to seize a dog barring "exigent" circumstances. Having the camera would document everything and would hopefully keep law enforcement from doing anything shifty, like bullying a homeowner into surrendering their dog. Since I live in Brampton I took special interest in the "pit bull" case and was astonished when I found out that the dogs were seized without a warrant. Law enforcement totally trampled over the legal rights of the Gaspar and Branco Families and they were bullied into giving up their dogs. You can see my post here; http://www.doggiestylish.com/store/2010/05/brampton-pit-bull-saga-over/
egoebelbecker May 26, 2010 at 5:52 pm
And here you can see how effective the ban has not been: http://btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2010/05/another-bill-on-the-table-to-repeal-bsl-in-ontario.html
egoebelbecker May 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Wow, the idea that the police could take my dog and euthanize him because he has a big head makes me say "I'll stick to civilized vacation spots."