Canada USA Border Crossing with a Small Dog is Painless!
Canada/USA border crossing with a small dog is painless. Making road trips or flying between the two a relatively easy task to undertake. Especially small “carry on” dogs like me! For this post we will focus on flying as an “example” but the rules are the same.
Note regarding air travel: I admit right now I have no idea how it works for flying larger dogs. I write only about what I know. Sorry.
The one thing that makes dog travel scary for a host country is the fear of spreading rabies. That is why you will see so many nations still have quarantine laws. But it’s something that Canada and the USA still both have sadly. So the rules are rather straight forward and similar; in two words: rabies vaccine.
Troublesome for Puppies
I was born in North Carolina, USA. My bipeds are from Canada. So I crossed that particular border for the first time when I was just shy of 3 months. You DO need to know that there are rules for puppies that can get a little tricky.
- Puppies younger than three months old don’t need to be vaccinated against rabies. Proof of age will be needed. A health certificate or vaccine certificate (obviously, not including rabies for under three month puppies) that is dated and includes the pup’s age should be fine.
- These regulations can present a logistical problem. Based on rabies-vaccine label directions, puppies can’t have a rabies vaccination until they are three months old, yet they need to have the vaccine a month before they travel and cross the Canada/USA border. If you happen to be 3.5 months old … you have a problem. The only solution is to wait the two weeks out. In my case, I wasn’t three months yet (just a week under) so I managed to get in without a rabies vaccine. (Note: a lot of breeders in Canada claim otherwise – and yes driving across the border can be easier than flying – but do understand that there IS a risk that your puppy will be denied entry since that is the LAW. Be prepared for that if you are choosing to “risk it”. You will be entirely at the mercy of the agent.) In a nutshell: Puppies now have to be 4 months old to enter the USA from Canada WITH the 30 day rabies shot given at 3 months. This was implemented in August 2014.
- For the USA, dogs that have NEVER been vaccinated against Rabies must be vaccinated a minimum of 30 days prior to arrival. Adults dogs older than 15 months of age that have had a rabies vaccination before (given no earlier than 3 months) and that has since expired may cross the border immediately following vaccination, WITHOUT the need to wait for 30 days.
On my first trip to Florida it was easier logistically. I was seven months old, and had my rabies shots for two months already. I only got the one year shot then (versus 3 year), because I was so darn small (2.38 pounds) that the vet worried that a three year dose may be harmful. Now that I am older – and a whole 3.5 pounds – I get the three year shot. My bipeds keeps the paper with their passport to show at the border.
Though permanent identification is not essential for travel between the U.S. and Canada, it is a good idea. If your dog gets away from you while you’re far from home, you won’t get him back without ID. A microchip is the best form of permanent ID for Canada/U.S. travel. You should also attach a tag on the harness/collar, with the dogs name as well as your own name and phone number. I have the ISO Conformant Full Duplex chip. This is important for when I travel to Europe or Asia since it is the only one they recognize and is required for entry. I mention it now because it’s important to time microchipping BEFORE the rabies shot. An often made error. But I digress.
What will you need to cross the Canada/U.S. border?
When travelling across the Canada/U.S. border by land, air or sea/lake make sure you have:
- Proof that your dog was vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Any vet knows what this paper looks like. In fact they often give it to you when your pet is vaccinated (see banner pic).
- American authorities: A signed, dated certificate showing the vaccine was given at least 30 days prior to entering the U.S.
- Canadian authorities: A rabies vaccination is valid from the day it is given. In other words, you can have your dog vaccinated, then cross the border into Canada a few minutes later.
- Information on the brand of rabies vaccine, the vaccine lot number, and the expiry date of the vaccine must be written on the certificate. Vaccine LOT NUMBER is really important. It’s the sticker off the vaccine vial (you can see an example in the banner pic).
- The certificate must list you (yes you, the human) as the owner (careful if someone else is travelling with the dog!) and contain a clear, detailed description of the dog, outlining his/her color, breed, gender, age and specific markings.
When flying, you may or may not need an additional airline approved health certificate, depending on your carrier. The required duration of a health certificate’s validity also varies from airline to airline. It’s best to ask whomever you are flying with for their current requirements for documentation.
We often fly US Airways when going to the USA (not sure why) and no health Certificate is needed for that airline.
When flying out from Ottawa Canada (Or Toronto) things are super simple we have a US border crossing INSIDE the Ottawa airport – very hand). The folks working there are lovely! We have had many a good laugh when they discover me – I even get a cuddle now and then.
Flying back into Canada, the story is a little different (by this I mean longer). We ALWAYS have to stand in line with the “something to declare” people (ahmmm that would be me just coming home folks!). This is called “secondary”. The Canadian Border Services Agency staff are super nice in our experience and once in a while they will wave the $30 administrative fee. A fee I still have no idea … what it’s for.
It isn’t unpleasant but it does take a lot of time and it can be a little stressful in terms of making say … a connecting flight out of Toronto back to Ottawa. So keep that in mind when you book your flights. Still, Canada/USA border crossing with a small dog is painless.
Driving across the borders on our road trips has always been a total breeze in either direction.
What has your experience been crossing the Canada/USA border? share in the comments below.
Note: Original post written in 2010. Updated with new rules (rabies for puppies).