Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Pinky Amador Bartolome

One of the hardest things to do when you migrate is to leave your beloved pets behind. Immigrating to another country is a family decision that entails lots of planning and discussion. It was heart breaking for us to leave our pet dacshund behind but we felt that we could not possibly take care of him when we didn't even know what will happen to us.

In case you do decide to take your pets to Canada, Immigration here have very strict requirements that you have to follow. The most popular pets transported are dogs and cats. Regulations depend on your home country, the age of the pet and whether you are accompanying the pet or not. No quarantine period is required for either dogs or cats entering Canada for any period of time. To determine the exact regulations regarding bringing your dog or cat to Canada you need to know if your country is recognized as rabies-free. All information here was gleaned from Muchmor magazine website.

The following countries are recognized by Canada as rabies fee: Anguilla, Antigua, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Finland, Iceland, Ireland (Republic of), Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand, Norway Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (Netherlands Antilles), Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Taiwan, Turks and Caicos Islands, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and Uruguay.

If you come from one of the officially recognized rabies-free countries you will need to obtain an export certificate, which has to be in either French or English, and signed by an official government veterinarian from your home country.

If you come from a country not considered rabies free then the dog or cat must be vaccinated against rabies and a rabies certificate needs to be issued by a licensed veterinarian. The rabies certificate should clearly identify the breed, colour and weight of the dog or cat as well as the name of the rabies vaccine used, along with its serial number and duration of validity.

Different rules apply for dogs either under or over 8 months of age. Cats under 3 months of age are exempt from requirements. You can check out the full details by using these links:

DOGS under 8 months of age

Rabies-free countries:
Not recognized as rabies-free:

DOGS over 8 months of age

Rabies-free countries:
Not recognized as rabies-free:

Rabies-free countries:
Not recognized as rabies-free:


Excess Baggage (Cargo): Excess baggage allows your pet to be checked in with you and your luggage. Cargo is when the pet is checked in without the owner through the cargo terminal. In both instances the pet will travel in the cargo hold.
Some carriers allow you to take your pet as excess baggage. This is usually the cheapest option and the pet, depending on regulations can either accompany you or be shipped separately. Most airlines only allow pets in the hold and many have regulations regarding the type of carrying container used, so check with the airline concerned. A decreasing number of airlines allow small pets to be carried in a container under your seat, however there are tight regulations regarding this so again, check first. This is not normally an option for transatlantic flights.
This method of transportation is often the cheapest as you are dealing with the airline directly. You will need to use this method if there is a requirement to accompany your pet as you can arrange with the airline for the pet to travel on the same flight as yourself. This can result in a restricted number of flights being available as not all airlines have “pet friendly” flights every day. Because they need to have extra facilities on board for pet travel such as a pressurized and heated cargo hold, then not all flights meet these requirements. For this reason you should start arranging your pet travel well in advance and be prepared to be flexible with dates and times. The only downside with taking your pet as excess baggage is that you will have to arrange all the paperwork and documentation yourself.

Specialist Pet Carrier: Most of these companies offer complete pet transfer services and can take a lot of pressure off you, however they do cost more.They offer services such as pet collection and boarding. They arrange all the necessary documentation including import permits and health certificates. They will provide the container and transport your pet to the airport. Many also have veterinary services and can offer micro chipping and vaccinations if required. This service is usually used for unaccompanied pets. This means you will need to check with the regulations regarding your type of pet as to whether this service is right for you. Some companies will arrange for your pet to travel on the same flight as you, but you do need to check.

Airline Using Specialist: Each airline has its own regulations regarding pet carriage. Some will only transport using a specialized pet carrier, which can increase the costs considerably. In this case you will need to contact the airlines preferred shipper and arrange all the transportation through them. You can usually arrange to either fly on the same flight or separately. You will get all the services of a specialist shipper, but be able to arrange to travel with your pet.

RESTRICTIONS: Many airlines restrict certain breeds from traveling. These breeds include those classed as dangerous such as pit bulls. Also snub-nosed dogs and cats such as bulldogs, pugs, pekinese, persian as they can suffer from respiratory problems during the flight. Most airlines cannot accept very young kittens or puppies, usually under 10 weeks of age. Restrictions also apply to pregnant pets. Many carriers also have weight restrictions, so if you have a large dog, you may find your choices limited.

In most cases airlines will not accept a sedated pet. Most will not accept a pet that cannot stand unaided. You will also find that some airlines will not take animals other than cats and dogs. So if you have another type of pet you may find your airline choices restricted.

Carriers can also restrict the length of journey travelled by a pet. This limit is usually around 12 hours, so if your flight is longer then the pet will not be allowed to travel. In this instance you should try to find a flight that has a stop over so your pet can be checked, given water and allowed out of the container for a short time. There can also be temperature restrictions. If you are leaving or landing at a location, which is either very hot or very cold, then the carrier can refuse to take pets. Each carrier will have its own rules regarding this, but it is purely in the pet’s interest. They do not want pets to be exposed to extreme heat or cold during the transportation process.

Other regulations you will come across will be regarding the type of carrier you use to transport your pet. You should check with your airline to be sure your carrier satisfies their requirements before you travel.

Although the thought of moving to Canada and not taking a beloved pet may be unthinkable, you always should put the welfare of your pet before your own needs. Some pets travel well whilst others may not and this will not always be related to the type of pet but rather the personality and disposition of the pet.

Generally speaking most cats and dogs will travel well although a very timid animal may be more of a concern than a bold animal. Many owners who were worried initially about taking a timid pet have found that they faired the journey better than themselves. Most animals will sleep during the journey and airlines keep the cargo hold dark so the animal can do just that.

The airports are well aware of animal (and owner) stress and so will usually go out off their way to make sure your animal is treated well. Many will leave the animal with you until the last minute before a flight to reduce this stress. Airlines usually release pets very quickly from the flight and your pet will be waiting for you once you clear customs. As soon as you are reunited with your pet you should allow them to relieve themselves and give them access to water as they may be a little dehydrated. If you pet is not used to being housed in a carrier then try to acclimatize them well before travel. Get them used to being in the carrier and make it a nice place to be so they do not get stressed. The better prepared your pet is the better they will travel.

Based in the information above, do you still want to bring your pet? If yes, then do the necessary paperworks and don't worry too much how your pet will fare, they usually withstand the travel much better than us humans. If you decide to leave you pet behind to a relative or a friend, then accept that parting with your pet is the best solution and keep your fond memories of your pet for a lifetime.

Photo courtesy of Rosie de Mesa


Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for your time writing this piece, it is a big piece of food for thought, but you at least answered my first question, as to whether my cat would have to go into quarantine if I came from UK to Canada - that's a nice answer. My cat doesn't travel well in a cage, but I have plenty of time to make a decision, so I will try bringing the cage into the house and adding some nice bedding to see if she may end up befriending it - hard decision, she isn't young..ish (8yrs), so don't want to kill her with a heart attack, but she is like one of my children, I may break both our hearts (and my childrens)if she wasn't living out her last years with us. Many thanks and kind regards, Mrs S.

nancy john said...

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