A Snowbird’s guide to travelling with your pets to the U.S.
By Jill Wykes – Snowbirdadvisor.ca
Find more tips and tools for Canadian snowbirds at SnowbirdAdvisor.ca
If you’re a snowbird who owns cats or dogs, you’ll want to bring these furry family members to the U.S. for the winter with you. If you are crossing the border with your pets in your RV, here’s what you need to know.
Before you depart…..
It’s a good idea to take some time well before you plan to depart to look at the websites of the departments that oversee importing pets to the U.S. You will be subject to the same health requirements even though you are not actually importing your pets permanently.
The website you will want to check out is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can find pet import regulations on the USDA website here. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) website also has pet importing requirements on their website here.
Since you will be travelling to unfamiliar territory for your pet, it is also a good idea to get your pet micro-chipped for identification purposes just in case they escape during your stay in the U.S.
When you cross the border, your pet must be healthy and well- groomed – or it might be turned away. All pets must be up to date with rabies shots and other vaccinations. You should also have a letter from a veterinarian certifying your pet is in good health and carry your vaccination records with you.
Cats are not technically required to have rabies shots, but many border guards may ask for it. And since this is also required when you return to Canada, you should have this done.
At the border, cats are usually required to be taken out of their cat carrier and this can create problems if the cat panics. Have a pair of gloves handy to handle your cat.
Tips for travelling by air with pets
Although most RV owners will be driving with their pets, circumstances sometimes arise where someone will be flying with a pet, so we’ve included some information should that occur.
First and foremost, check with each airline at the time of booking about their policies for carrying pets, as each airline is different.
When you do book your flights, you must advise the airline at the same time that you will be travelling with a pet.
Airlines have specifications about the type of carrier you can use, so make sure you look that up or talk to a customer service agent at the airline. There are also specific rules for carriers that are allowed in the cabin. If your pet is small enough, they may be allowed in the passenger cabin under the seat. Not all airlines allow this, so this might determine which airline you choose.
Many vets suggest a mild tranquilizer for your pet if they are going to be travelling by air. Speak to your vet about this.
Be prepared before you leave
Make sure you have sufficient food and treats for your pet’s journey and also check that you can import the food and treats into the U.S. Otherwise you will have to stop once in the U.S. and purchase food there (This is often easier than trying to cross the border with pet food). Don’t forget all of your pet medications.
In the RV, it is safest if your pet remains restrained in a carrier or cage for your safety and theirs. If you do open the carrier, do it with the RV door closed, as you don’t want to risk your pet escaping.
For your pet’s sake, you should choose the fastest and most direct driving route. Many pets get carsick, especially on high and winding roads. The best thing you can do for your pet is to get to your destination as soon as possible, and make quick, frequent stops along the way if possible.
Requirements when returning to Canada with your pets
It’s just as important to remember that there are regulations you need to comply with when bringing your pet back to Canada.
The Canadian agency that oversees importing animals is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). You can find the rules related to importing a pet to Canada on the CFIA website here, and information about travelling with pets on the Government of Canada website.
If you are bringing home a new pet that you acquired while you were in the U.S. different rules may apply, so be sure to investigate the rules for importing an animal as opposed to returning with your pet.
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