Border Crossing with Pets
From Canada to the USA
Step 1: Preparation
I can think of nothing worse than attempting a border crossing with pets and having them deny entry or worse, quarantine them. I have nightmares about border officials telling us that they need to confiscate our beloved pets. It’s completely unrealistic but as a cat and dog mom, the thought makes me crazy.
I kept that top of mind when we started planning our route for our year long RV trip in North and Central America. We scoured the internet to find out what was necessary and have taken every precaution to ensure smooth passages for our traveling pets.
The first thing you need to do is confirm the requirements of the country you’re exiting and the country you’re entering. There are different rules for each and above all you want to ensure you can enter the new country but also that you know what is needed to return. We’ve captured information below which is accurate as of February 2019, of course do your own research just to confirm that nothing has changed. We’ll update this as we become aware of any changes. The information contained within is relevant for overland/driving across borders. Remember that some airlines may have their own regulations and to confirm this directly with your airline.
Border Crossing with Pets: Dogs
The CDC advises that all pet dogs must appear healthy in order to enter the USA. They also advise that you will require a valid rabies vaccination certificate. These rules apply to all pet dogs including emotional support dogs, service dogs and puppies over 4 months of age.* Additionally, you must adhere to the regulations of the state you are entering. Each state may have different rules on this and it’s best to check each one to ensure you’re up to date. For Maine, where we crossed, there were no additional requirements.
So, what must a valid rabies vaccination certificate for pet dogs contain?
- Your dog’s description (including breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information)
- Date of rabies vaccination
- Expiration date of vaccination certificate (or date your pet’s next vaccination is due)
- Veterinarian’s signature (from a licensed veterinarian of course!)
If your dog is being vaccinated for the first time, you must wait 30 days before bringing it into the USA. This is because the vaccination takes 30 days to become effective. Age of your pet dog plays a part also.
*If your dog is under 4 months of age, it cannot travel to the USA (even if it is a service animal). The reason for this is because a dog needs to be 3 months old before it can safely receive the rabies vaccine, plus 30 days for the vaccine to become effective.
Border Crossing with Pets: Cats
Regulations surrounding bringing cats into the USA are different. They do still need to appear healthy upon entry. If they appear to have diseases, especially ones that could be transmitted to humans, they will need to be inspected by a US certified veterinarian with expenses paid by the owner. Additionally, the CDC advises that cats do not require a rabies vaccine to enter the USA from Canada. However, it is possible that border officials may ask for proof of rabies vaccination. Also, certain states may require this on a state by state level even though federally it’s not required.
This is one of those cases where you need to use your best judgement. If you do not plan on bringing your cats back to Canada, you may be able to choose not to vaccinate them for rabies. If you do plan on bringing them back to Canada at some point, you will require a valid rabies vaccination certificate for re-entry. The certificate must contain the same information as the certificate for dogs.
In our case, we got both our cats vaccinated just in case. It would be cheaper to get them done from a US vet but we got them done in Canada. We didn’t want to chance it if border officials asked for it when entering the USA.
Border Crossing with Pets: Other Animals
It is possible to bring other pets with you from Canada to the USA. For information on turtles, snakes or lizards, click here. If you are importing other small mammals, click here for more information.
Step 2: The Vet Consult
The next thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your vet well in advance. We planned to cross in November, so we arranged our appointments for September to ensure we had ample time.
We took all animals at the same time to save a little on the appointment fee–ask your vet if they will do this!
This is the form our Canadian vet completed for our dog Goof. We have similar forms for both cats. The info I blocked out is just her microchip number, our address, and our vets name and signature. The stickers on the bottom contain the serial number for the vaccines she received.
Are Other Vaccinations Required?
Although the rabies vaccine is the only one required, our vet advised us to get extra protection for our dog. We vaccine her annually for Bortadella, Leptospirosis (common in Nova Scotia and very dangerous), and Lyme. In addition to these, we purchased flea, tick and heartworm preventative medication for the duration of the trip. The risk of heartworm in the South is very high. As the cats stay inside, we chose not to do this for them.
Step 3: Documents
In addition to the rabies vaccination certificate we also had our vet type a letter on their veterinary letterhead. We asked her to include:
- Veterinary office location and contact details
- Name, age, breed of animal in question
- Who the animal belongs to (Devon and I in our case)
- Results of her examination (free of infectious or contagious diseases)
- No known exposure to rabies in the last 6 months
- Date of examination and results that animal is deemed healthy
- Signature of veterinarian
We got a separate letter for each pet rather than one for all of them. After our vet visit, we made multiple copies of all the paperwork. We keep copies in different areas of the RV, with the originals kept separately in a hidden area. Call me paranoid, but if something unthinkable happens, I have my originals in a secure spot so that I’ll never be in a situation where I have to leave them behind. We are planning on doing multiple border crossings with pets, not just one, so we made 10 copies of each document.
Border Crossings with Pets
From the USA to Canada
So, what about when you want to bring them back? Or if your pets are American and you want to road trip North with them? I’ll detail all you need to know below. Keep in mind, this is accurate based on my research as of February 2019, it’s important to also do your own research. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) who is the governing body overseeing animal importation in Canada has a helpful tool on their website to help you assess your situation. I’ve gone through the info for domestic pets that you will accompany across the border. If importing for commercial use, or the pet will be unattended, please learn more here.
Border Crossing with Pets: Dogs Under 8 Months of Age
Going from the USA into Canada, regulations are broken into 2 categories for dogs. Dogs under 8 months and dogs over 8 months of age. For puppies the USDA states “Dogs younger than three months old are not required to be vaccinated for rabies but proof of the dog’s age must be available to Canadian Officials”.
The (CFIA) advises the following:
- Dogs that are accompanied by their owners and are between three and eight months require a rabies vaccination certificate.
- Dogs less than three months do not require rabies certification. However, proof of the dog’s age must be provided on request.
Dogs Over 8 Months of Age
Dogs over 8 months of age only require a rabies vaccination certificate. The certificate must include the following:
- be written in English or French;
- be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian;
- identify the animal (breed, sex, 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)
Border Crossings with Pets: Cats
If you’re planning on taking you cat from the USA into Canada, they do not need a health certificate. They only need proof of rabies vaccine (containing same information as above for dog requirements). Kittens under 3 months of age are exempt from the rabies vaccination because they are too young. There is also no waiting time necessary. If your cat is older than 3 months, it will require a rabies vaccination but it doesn’t matter if it just received it 2 days before crossing.
Next Steps and Our Experience
This should hopefully help you prepare if you decide to take your fur babies with you on your next road trip. It’s definitely not a cheap endeavor. Our consult and vaccinations for our 3 babies cost us just over $900 CAD (around $700 USD). With that said, it’s important to make sure you have everything together.
We have only done the Canada to USA crossing so far and we had no issues. They asked us about the pets, asked if they were vaccinated and once they inspected our RV, sent us on our way.
Have you crossed international borders with your pets? How did it go? Let us know in the comments and if you have any advice, please let us know.
All information contained in this post was accurate as of February 19, 2019. Sources used are below. Please check out for yourself and let us know if anything has changed. We will update this post when we hear of changes or updates to government policy.