How to Fly to Canada with a Service Dog
Are you traveling to Canada with a service dog from the United States? Just like on domestic U.S. flights, service dogs are allowed to board the cabin of planes free of charge.
Flying with a service dog to Canada, however, can be a bit more complex than flying within the United States. That is due to the fact that Canada has different documentation requirements for service dogs. In addition, Canadian airlines can also differ from their U.S. counterparts in terms of how they process service dogs.
In this guide, we’ll cover some basics to help you plan your trip to Canada with your service dog.
Gathering Essential Documents
To fly with a service dog to Canada, you will generally need the following documents:
The DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form
This is the form required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to fly with a service dog to or from the U.S. Both U.S. and Canadian airlines will ask for this form. For U.S. airlines, this is generally the only form you will need to submit prior to your flight.
Filling out the form is easy; you can find instructions at this link.
To enter Canada, the rabies vaccination certificate must:
- be written in English or French
- be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian
- identify the animal (age, breed, sex, color/markings, weight, and microchip/tattoo number if applicable)
- 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
- specify the duration of immunity (otherwise, it will be considered valid for 1 year from the date of vaccination); and
- have the name and signature of the licensed veterinarian that issued the certificate and the date it was signed.
Note that Canada actually exempts service dogs from the rabies vaccination requirement. However, Canada requires that the dog must be trained and certified by an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Dog Federation to be regarded as a service animal.
Most U.S. service dog owners will not have this certification, as it is not required under U.S. laws. Therefore, U.S. service dogs may be regarded as personal pets, and owners should come prepared with a vaccination certificate.
Airline Specific Form
U.S. airlines generally only require you to submit the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form. Some Canadian airlines, such as Air Canada, also require an additional form.
For example, Air Canada may demand an identification card or document issued by an organization or person specializing in service dog training. This request can be difficult for U.S. service dog owners since most do not have this kind of documentation – they are not mandated under U.S. law.
Keep in mind on flights to and from Canada most airlines will require you to submit any forms at least 48 hours prior to your time of departure.
Handy Extras for Your Journey
To make your trip more comfortable, consider bringing:
- Vests, tags, ID cards, harnesses. Service dog accessories, such as vests, tags, ID cards, and harnesses, are useful at the airport and on the plane. They are typically expected by airline staff and fellow travelers and indicate that your dog is a working animal.
- PSD letter. If you own a psychiatric service dog, you may want to carry a PSD letter. A PSD letter states that you have an eligible psychiatric condition for the purpose of owning a service dog.
Wonder if your emotional disorder qualifies for a psychiatric service dog?
Get an assessment by a licensed health professional.
These items can be very helpful while traveling. WestJet recommends bringing a registered ID card or other written documentation in the event it is requested by airport or airline staff.
It’s a good idea to travel with copies of all your documents and your service dog accessories.
Before or Right After Booking Your Flight
Always consult your airline for their most recent policies and requirements concerning service animals. Most airlines have a dedicated section on their website or a disability services contact for further inquiries.
This is especially important when traveling to Canada since the requirements for your particular airline may differ from what you are accustomed to when traveling domestically.
Here are links to the service dog policies of popular airlines flying to and from Canada:
When traveling with a service dog, airlines have specific rules to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for all passengers. Here are some general guidelines for flying with a service dog:
- Be prepared to have your service dog harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times during the flight.
- Service dogs must fit in the handler’s foot space without obstructing the aisle or other areas.
- Airlines should work with passengers to find suitable seating, such as a bulkhead seat or one with extra legroom.
- Your service dog must be well-behaved and not disrupt other passengers. If your dog is unruly, aggressive, or noisy, the airline has the right to refuse transport.
- You are responsible for providing food and water for your service dog during the flight.
- It’s a good idea to bring waste bags and clean up after your service dog, if necessary.
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to mark your dog as a service animal with items like a vest, tag, or ID card. This will notify other passengers and airline attendants that your dog is a working animal.
Final Tips When Flying to Canada
Traveling with a service dog to Canada from the U.S. can seem daunting, but it’s achievable as long as you’re mindful of your particular airline’s requirements.
Be sure to check your airline’s latest policy before booking your flight. You may want to speak directly with a representative from their accessibility department before settling on a flight. In addition, do consult Canada’s official page for transporting dogs and review their latest rules so there are no surprises when you reach Canada’s customs.