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How to Get a Canadian Pet Passport in 2023: A Step-by-Step Guide

cat sitting on a suitcase ready to travel
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Chantelle Fowler

Traveling with pets can be a very stressful process. Not only do you need to worry about your pet’s safety during transit but ensuring all the proper paperwork is secured before your departure can also be taxing.

If you’re traveling from Canada with your pet in the future, you’ll need documentation to ensure hassle-free entry into your destination country. The same applies if you export your pet from Canada to another country. Read on to learn what you’ll need to export and import your pet to and from the Great White North.

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How to Get a Pet Passport If You’re Leaving Canada

Canada does issue an official passport for your pet to use when traveling. However, you will need to get several documents for your pet before they can travel. Here are some of the steps you will need to follow to make this happen:

1. Do Your Research

Before leaving the country, contact your destination country’s embassy to find out its requirements for bringing animals into their country. Each country has its own rules, so familiarize yourself with them before departing. You may need to pay for additional testing, vaccines, or treatment before importing your pet into another country. Some also require pet owners to submit an import permit as well as an export certificate.

ginger cat and woman in bed with laptop
Image Credit: Konstantin Aksenov, Shutterstock

2. See Your Veterinarian

Many countries accept the Canadian International Health Certificate for individuals traveling with their cats and dogs. The certificate must be filled out by an approved veterinarian and printed on legal paper to be accepted. You will not need to provide this certificate if you’re traveling to a country that provides its own health certificate or those with specific veterinary certificates with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). You can find the bilingual Canadian International Health Certificate here and the trilingual certificate here.

3. Check Canada’s Import Rules

Canada has specific import requirements for any individual bringing a pet into the country. Your pet will be removed from Canada if you do not meet the criteria. Importing dogs into Canada will, in most cases, require a valid rabies vaccination certificate or Rabies Country-Freedom Certificate if you’re traveling from a rabies-free country like Finland, Ireland, or Australia.

Importing cats into the country will also require a valid rabies vaccine or a veterinary certificate, which you can obtain from your vet. If you’re providing the veterinary certificate, you must also have documentation stating that rabies has not occurred in your country of origin for at least six months before your animals enter Canada.

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4. Go Online

The Government of Canada has an entire section on its website to make this easy for pet owners. First, you must answer several questions about the pet and your travels, such as its age, what type of animal you’re traveling with, and why you’re bringing the pet into the country (e.g., personal, commercial, or assistance animal). Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be provided with the exact requirements to enter Canada.

For example, individuals with a dog 8 months or older traveling for personal reasons from the United States will need a valid rabies vaccine certificate. The dog must also appear healthy and be transported humanely. However, individuals trying to bring a turtle or tortoise into Canada will not be allowed unless they can prove they are part of a zoo or search laboratory and provide the proper import permit for said animal.

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Traveling to Countries Without a Certificate

If you’re traveling somewhere that has no negotiated export certificate and doesn’t provide one, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands. Contact the veterinary authorities or embassy in your destination country to obtain a list of the current import requirements.

cat inside an airplane
Image Credit: Photo-Spirit, Shutterstock

Traveling With Exotic Pets

Individuals traveling with exotic pets may need a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit to travel to certain countries. CITES is a treaty established to protect endangered plants and animals to ensure the survival of the species. Individuals importing or exporting a species listed under CITES will require a permit to travel as it is unlawful to bring any animals or plants on the list across international borders if you don’t have the right documentation.

Canadian exotic pet owners can obtain a Certificate of Ownership from Environment Canada if they travel out of the country with their pets often.

If you’re traveling temporarily with your CITES-listed pet, we recommend applying for a CITES Certificate of Ownership. This certificate is known as a “pet passport” and will be valid for three years, allowing certificate holders to export and re-import multiple times. Unfortunately, not all countries accept CITES Certificates of Ownership. We recommend checking out the national CITES authorities page for your destination country to find out who you would contact to see what documentation you need to travel with your pet.

CITES-listed pets include:

  • Many parrots
  • Many lizards
  • Many turtles
  • Hybrid cats
  • Some snakes
  • Some fish

You can check out the CITES species database to see if your pet is listed.

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Final Thoughts

Obtaining a Canadian pet passport can be a lengthy process, so the sooner you can get started, the better. Paperwork can take a long time to process, especially if traveling to a country with less easily accessible embassies or veterinarians. Also, be sure your pet is up to date on its vaccinations and schedule a visit with your vet well before your departure so you can get the green light from the doctor that your cat is good to travel.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

About the Author

Chantelle Fowler
Chantelle Fowler
Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can have an indoor jungle gym all year round. When Chantelle isn’t snuggling her cats on the couch or taking pictures of them being hilarious, she’s outside exploring in the Rocky Mountains, binging the same shows on Netflix over and over, and reading about whatever random topic pops into her brain. 

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