How to bring pets to Canada

Edana Robitaille
Published: January 31, 2023

Pets are members of the family, and many newcomers wouldn’t think of leaving them behind when they decide to immigrate to Canada.

Canada’s rules for importing pets are fairly straightforward and have few requirements. However, this can vary depending on why an animal is being brought to Canada, and what country you are bringing your pet from.

For example, the rules for bringing an animal to Canada can change depending on whether it is already your pet or if it is being brought to Canada by a rescue organization for later adoption, being brought in for breeding or shows or if it is for sale. Any animal that is not a personal pet is considered a commercial pet and is subject to different entry requirements.

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Bringing your pet to Canada is not difficult if you have the right documentation to show the Canadian Boarder Services Agent (CBSA) when you arrive. The best place to start is with a quick visit to your vet.

What kind of documentation does my pet need?

Proof of a rabies vaccine

Canada is a rabies-free country and strives to stay that way. Every cat or dog that comes into Canada needs proof of rabies vaccination or that the pet is from one of the countries on the “rabies free” list. Without proof of vaccination or that the pet comes from one of these countries, your pet will likely be denied entry.

The rabies vaccination certificate must:

  • be written in English or French;
  • be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian;
  • identify the animal (age, breed, sex, colour/markings, weight, and microchip/tattoo number if applicable);
  • 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;
  • specify the duration of immunity (otherwise, it will be considered valid for 1 year from the date of vaccination); and
  • have the name and signature of the licensed veterinarian that issued the certificate and the date it was signed.

Cats and dogs must be at least 3 months of age at the time of rabies vaccination. Puppies and kittens younger than three months, and are therefore not vaccinated, require proof of age.

Does my pet need a microchip?

Canada does not require imported personal pets to be microchipped or tattooed, but it is highly recommended. A microchip is a radio-frequency identification transponder that a veterinarian will scan for if your pet is lost and brought to a shelter. The chip has an identification number that acts as a reference to find the owner’s contact information in a national, provincial, or municipal database.

Dogs under 8 months of age, who are imported under the commercial category, must have a microchip. This also applies to dogs who are destined for adoption.

What about reptiles and rodents?

The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) prohibits importing any amphibians or reptiles, including turtles and tortoises due to the risk of salmonella viruses. The CFIA is the regulatory authority in Canada that determines what plants and livestock, including pets, are admissible.

Rodents, such as rats, hamsters and guinea pigs are permitted without any certification necessary as bubonic plague is no longer a serious threat. This also applies to beavers, lemmings, and capybaras, among others.

Fees

There are no import fees for bringing your pet to Canada. However, you can expect a CBSA agent to inspect your documents and to ensure that your pet is healthy and well-cared for. The inspection costs just over $30 for your first pet and $5 for any additional pets. This fee does not apply to animals who are entering Canada from the United States.

If a border agent decides that your pet is not healthy and requires further inspection, an official from CFIA will be called upon to evaluate your pet for an additional fee.

Transportation

One thing that remains consistent, regardless of the type of animal, is that they all need to be transported humanely. While most existing regulations surrounding humane transportation are related to livestock such as cows and pigs, if a CBSA official deems that you are not transporting your pet safely and comfortably, they may deny entry. Additionally, if your pet is arriving by air, individual airlines may have different requirements for how to transport your pet and you should verify these requirements far in advance.

Take away

The main factor in deciding if you can bring your pet to Canada is if it comes from a country where there are known diseases that can spread to other pets and livestock. For example, bird owners are not allowed to bring their pets if they come from countries with a higher risk of avian influenza (bird flu).

Additionally, in September, CFIA put a banned the importation of commercial dogs from a list of countries that are considered high-risk for dog rabies.

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© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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