T he story will sound familiar to many. An unsuspecting Canadian travels outside of Canada for a vacation, and while away has their heart stolen by an innocent dog that seems to have been cast aside by the local community. After having their heart strings pulled, and realizing they can provide a better life for this animal, the quest to find a way to bring them home to Canada begins. But is it as easy as just booking the dog on the next flight home? Not exactly. The importation of animals into Canada has particular requirements.
The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) monitors the influx of animals entering Canada at points of entry and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates the import of these animals.
The CFIA may require inspection of an animal at the port of entry. It is important to know though that not all ports of entry have a CFIA inspector available on-site at all times. To prevent delays at the border it is best to give advance notice of arrival to ensure the CFIA has staff available for inspection.
To determine if your animal requires inspection, the CFIA has provided an online tool called the Automated Import Reference System, which can be found at
Airlines that transport animals internationally will have their own set of rules. This may include health and behavioural restrictions and vaccination requirements. There will also be regulations regarding the type of kennel that can be used for transport on their aircraft. It is important to familiarize yourself with the rules of the individual air carrier you are using.
The CFIA requires that all dogs entering Canada must be current on their age-appropriate vaccinations. In the case of rabies vaccinations, animals must be at least 12 weeks of age before receiving the vaccine.
Different rules apply to animals that are imported for commercial, personal or assistive purposes. Upon arrival at the port of entry into Canada, the CBSA will perform a documentary inspection for the imported animal. Documents required may include a rabies vaccination certificate, a veterinary certificate of health and/or a veterinary certificate. The CFIA explains what is required in the following outlines:
The rabies vaccination certificate must:
• Be written in English or French; • Be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian;
• Identify the animal (as in 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).
The veterinary certificate of health must:
• Be written in English or French;
• Be issued by the licensed veterinarian who performed the examination;
• Have the name and signature of the licensed veterinarian;
• Identify the animal (breed, sex, colour, and weight);
• Specify the date and time of the examination;
• State the animal is not less than eight weeks of age at the time of the examination;
• Declare the animal free of any clinical evidence of disease;
• Show the animal was vaccinated, not younger than six weeks of age, for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and parainfluenza virus;
• State the animal can be transported to Canada without undue suffering due to infirmity, illness, injury, fatigue or any other causes; and
• Be issued 72 hours or less before the dog is imported into Canada.
The veterinary certificate must:
• Be written in English or French;
• Be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian;
• Identify the animal (as in breed, sex, colour and weight);
• State that the animal has been in the exporting country since birth or for at least six months immediately preceding shipment to Canada; and
• Be accompanied by documentation from a competent government authority, stating that rabies has not occurred in the country of origin for at least six months immediately preceding the animal’s shipment to Canada.
A competent government authority refers to a veterinary agency or other government agency that manages a country’s  animal health and welfare situation, as well as handling the responsibility of veterinary certification for the purposes of international trade. The document can be either:
• A letter issued on the competent government authority’s letterhead, which must be dated, stamped and signed by an official of the competent government authority in the country of origin; or
• A letter by the licensed veterinarian who issued the certificate, which must be endorsed by the competent government authority.
Animals coming from different locals across the globe may also be carrying pathogens other than rabies that can be harmful to both people and animals. These pathogens may not be native to their new home location in Canada, which can be a cause for concern to the human and animal population. To minimize this risk, a visual inspection by CBSA will also be done to ensure the animal appears healthy and does not show any obvious signs of illness. Should the animal appear ill, the CBSA will contact the CFIA veterinarian. Inspections will be subject to a fee. An outline of these fees and taxes as well as the duty paid on imported animals can be found on the CFIA website at
As you can see, it is important to take into consideration not only the cost of importing a dog from another country but also the requirements that need to be followed. These requirements are in place to ensure the health and safety of animals and people in Canada, as animals travelling from foreign areas could potential bring along disease. Before you book your new furry friend on the next flight home, make sure you investigate the legal requirements for importation first!
Kristina Cooper is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and proud member of the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). She can be reached by email at Editor’s note: The CVMA has a position statement on importing aninals into Canada, available at

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *