“Update” may be a bit of an oversell in this case, but here’s some more information on the upcoming changes to US dog importation rules that kind of came out of nowhere. We’re still trying to sort out a number of issues, both in terms of the big picture and minor operational details; hopefully we’ll have a much clearer picture soon.

To what dogs will the new rules apply?

The rules will apply to any dog entering the US on or after August 1, 2024, including:

  • A US dog returning home to the US after a visit to Canada or abroad
  • A Canadian dog moving to the US
  • Any dog on a cross-border visit to the US
  • Any dog crossing the border to the US for veterinary care
  • Any US dog returning home after receiving veterinary care in Canada
  • Any dog being sold/rehomed/rescued into the US
  • Service dogs traveling with their owner to the US (yes, even service dogs)

In short, it’s ALL dogs. Full stop.

For Canadians, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued some updated information on what these changes mean for dogs traveling from Canada to the US after August 1 (with a disclaimer that things may still change). Here’s what dog owners should do if they might be crossing the the border (from Canada to the US, either coming or going) with their dog starting in August:


Ensure that your dog is microchipped AND that the microchip is ISO compatible AND that the microchip number and date it was implanted are clearly recorded in the dog’s medical record.

  • If the dog has a non-compatible microchip, it will need a new one.

Rabies vaccination

Ensure that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies AND that you don’t allow vaccination to lapse (stick to the schedule on the vaccine label!) AND that the rabies vaccination was done after the dog was given its ISO compatible microchip AND that the dog’s microchip number is recorded on any vaccination documentation.

  • Any vaccines that pre-date the microchip are not considered valid.

We’re still trying to sort out what happens if your dog was vaccinated at a different clinic from the clinic filling out the export paperwork. Common sense would suggest that the new clinic can sign off on the export form if they are confident that the dog was vaccinated based on the records from the previous clinic, but we’re still not sure if that will be considered acceptable. So, if your dog was vaccinated at a clinic that can’t complete the export paperwork, it’s possible your dog might need to be revaccinated again.

Medical records

Six months’ worth of veterinary records will be required to cross the US border. This could include a health certificate, vaccination certificate, invoice or something similar. It’s not a full dump of the dog’s medical record to document the dog’s health status, it’s simply to help prove that the dog has been in Canada (and under someone’s direct care) for at least 6 months (and therefore was not recently brought from a high-risk country and just “laundered” through Canada).

  • The dog’s ISO microchip number must be documented in the medical record and any other documentation.

For those using a USDA rabies vaccination form (including US residents and any Canadians who have their dog vaccinated while in the US), in addition to the above, make sure that the veterinarian who administered the vaccine is USDA-accredited, or at least that a veterinarian in their practice is accredited who can sign off on the form. Not all clinics have accredited veterinarians.

  • Currently it looks like if this form isn’t signed off by an accredited veterinarian, then the rabies vaccination is not considered valid for US import purposes and would have to be done again.

Plan ahead

Forms don’t write themselves, and veterinary clinics and CFIA offices are busy. “I’m on my way to Florida this afternoon doc. What do we have to do?” just isn’t going to work anymore. The vaccination form for a rabies vaccine given in Canada also has to be signed off by a CFIA veterinarian. The process for that is still being worked out, but at least for now some additional lead time has to be built in to get the dog’s veterinarian to complete the forms AND to get a CFIA veterinarian to sign off.

Here are a few other scenarios for dog owner to consider:

Cross border veterinary care

  • There are currently no exemptions to these rules for crossing the border for veterinary care, emergency or otherwise (even if the only reasonably close clinic may be on the other side of the border).

Puppies under 6 months of age

  • Not gonna happen. Dogs less than 6 months of age will not be allowed to cross, regardless of circumstances.

Service animals

  • This is an area for which we don’t have clear answers yet. Currently the US has stated that these rules will apply equally to service dogs, but the US Americans With Disabilities Act provides strong protections for access of service dogs to anywhere their owner goes. I don’t know if that that supersedes USDA and CDC.
  • The concern is that there are a lot of fake “service” dogs and the service dog landscape is a mess. I assume there’s a lot a wariness of opening a loophole that could be abused.

I’ve focused on Canada here since, that’s the main source of dogs traveling regularly to the US. Mexico would be another busy border to which the same rules will apply (but I know nothing about the sign off process for Mexican documentation). The same applies to any other country that’s considered low risk for canine variant rabies. The new process for importing dogs from high risk countries is different, and even more stringent. That’s a bigger topic for another day.