Advice for New Zealand Dog Owners

Traveling to Canada is no longer the hassle it used to be. With non-stop flights from Auckland, you can touch down on the runway at Vancouver International Airport, in less than 15 hours.

Flying to the land of maple syrup and ice hockey isn't just restricted to people either. If it's time to move to Canada, don't worry about leaving your beloved pooch behind. You can arrive at the same destination at the same time, no sweat.

Photo of a Canadian flagCredit: User:Kevin-P / morgueFile

What You Need To Know

So, you've made the decision to move to Canada with your dog. Now it's time for the 'fun' part – researching. For starters, you'll need to know what the current regulations are, in regards to importing domestic dogs into Canada.

At the time of writing, New Zealand is recognized as being a rabies-free country, which immediately removes one hurdle – no compulsory rabies vaccination for your pet. Domestic dogs entering Canada also don't have to be quarantined – another plus!

The Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) handles all inspections of animals being imported into Canada and an inspector is available at all times. The current fee for inspection of domestic dogs arriving into Canada is $30 CAD + tax per animal.

Just like New Zealand, Canada also has its own bylaws regarding dogs. As the owner, you will need to apply for a dog license once you have arrived and settled. You can do this online or by visiting the local Animal Control office.

Dog licenses in Canada can range anywhere from $15 to $70 CAD upwards and are payable every year. The price to pay depends on the city or location you decide to live, the type of dog (it costs more to license 'dangerous' breeds), and whether it is neutered or not.

Photo of an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-219/ER landing at Vancouver International AirportCredit: User:Makaristos / Wikimedia Commons / PD

1) Time To Start Planning Your Flight

Do you have departure date/s in mind, or a preferred airline? How important is it that you and your dog travel on the same flight? Will you be okay if your pet arrives before (or after) your flight? Pet transport companies can only schedule flight bookings for pets one month prior to travel, so it's worth staying flexible with dates.

One of the best airlines to travel on is Air New Zealand. With a great reputation for safety and professional service, Air New Zealand NZ0084 Boeing 777-200 flies direct to Vancouver several times a week from Auckland International Airport.

Air NZ also frequently flies to other regions in North America, and has a once-a-week long haul flight on Mondays (Flight NZ2) to London via Los Angeles, which is scheduled for handling pets. 

While it is possible to stopover in Los Angeles or San Francisco before traveling onto Canada with another airline, flying direct to Vancouver is, by far, the better choice. The only non-stop route to Canada from NZ, your pet will not have to endure extra handling and airline transfers, nor will you be required to go through US Customs on the way.

The age requirement for dogs traveling on Air NZ aircraft is a minimum of three months old. For information about traveling with pets on Air New Zealand flights, click here for up-to-date details on their website. Air NZ International Cargo – General Cargo Enquiries can be contacted by phone on 0800 747 700.


Map of Auckland International Airport

2) Collecting Quotes

After deciding on an airline and departure date, start sourcing quotes from at least two, if not three, approved pet transport companies. Finding the best value, service and people to help you and your pet is important. 

Price-wise, a large breed of dog, eg Greyhound or German Shepherd, can cost between $2,400 to $2,600 NZD to be flown to Vancouver. If flying on to another Canadian city, further costs will apply, so it is best to check this out with the relevant airline and/or pet transporter beforehand. (Note: pit bull dogs are not allowed entry into Ontario.)

One great Auckland-based pet transport company that transports dogs is AeroPets.

3) Getting A Shipping Kennel

Since dogs travel 'cargo' on commercial airlines, it is essential that shipping kennels meet IATA approved standards and be suitable for air transportation.

Travel cages for dogs are available in standard and custom sizes, and usually constructed out of plywood with wire mesh, or heavy duty plastic. Measured in relation to the dog's height, length and width, it must be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around in, and include an accessible water bowl.

If it is at all possible, purchase (or hire) a shipping kennel in advance and store it in your home, so your dog can grow accustomed to the cage in its own time, in a stress-free environment. By adding some bedding, a few familiar toys or snacks, your dog will feel more comfortable and at ease, well before the journey has begun.

Photo of a plane cabin interiorCredit: User:kconnors / morgueFile

4) Pet Transport Booking

With departure date decided on, and kennel and company chosen, your booking with the Cargo Customer Service Unit of your chosen airline is ready to go ahead. It is up to the pet transporter to arrange this on your behalf and you will then be notified of other requirements, including selecting a MAF-approved veterinarian to examine your dog.

You will likely be asked to provide contact details of a friend, relative or dog carer who can act as 'back up' if, for some reason, you are unable to collect your animal at the final destination, and to fill in an Export Customs Delivery Order, since your dog will be leaving the country.

5) Vet Certificate & Declarations

One of the last but most important pieces of paperwork you will need is a signed veterinary certificate that declares:

•  your dog is originating from a rabies-free country
•  your dog's breed and color
•  you dog's current weight, and
•  the length of time your dog has been in New Zealand (ie the exporting country).

This certificate can be written either in English or French, and is a requirement for any owners bringing a dog into Canada. The certificate must be issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian, so be sure to phone your local vet clinic to see if they are able to assist with this.

The vet certificate must be accompanied by a letter dated, stamped and signed on official letterhead by an animal health and welfare authority (ie Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries), stating that New Zealand has not had not had an outbreak of rabies in the six months prior to your travel date.

Note: an alternative to obtaining the vet certificate is for your dog to receive a rabies vaccination – further information can be found here. Puppies under three months of age being imported into Canada do not require vet certification or rabies vaccination.

For NZ MAF requirements, an Owner's and Vet Declaration needs to be completed. This form should be made available to you from your chosen pet transporter and is an assurance that your dog is healthy and fit, and fine for air travel. Your dog will need to be microchipped if it hasn't been already.

Photo of a man hugging a small, white poodle dogCredit: User:z-architect / morgueFile

6) All Aboard

On departure day, your dog's last meal should be given at least four hours prior to take-off. Make sure to allow your dog plenty of time to drink, relax and exercise. Having a fun play session or relaxing walk together is highly recommended before driving to the airport.

For some people, it will be more practical to have their dog stay at nearby boarding kennels, especially if they have traveled from another part of the country and need to stay at a hotel overnight. If this is the case for you, your pet transporter can arrange kennel bookings and delivery to the airport the next day.

When it comes to drop-off at the airport, you can either choose to accompany your dog with the pet transport officer, or ask the company to pick up and transport your dog for you to the cargo facility. (Note: owners are prevented from accompanying their pet to the aircraft.)

Once seen by the approved veterinarian, and MAF compliance has been met and documents checked and attached to the cage, your dog will be loaded up and ready to go. All that will be left is for you to check in your luggage, go to gate, walk on board and get seated. 

Your dog may have to bide his/her time in the dark cargo hold for awhile, but at least, you'll be both flying in the same direction. With a new life to look forward to, being together in the end is all that counts.


Personal Responsibility

While best efforts have been taken to cover as many details as possible about transporting a dog to Canada, the validity of this information should not be taken for granted.

Be responsible and ensure that you and your pet transporter have the proper documentation for your dog. Missing information may lead to your pet being confiscated on arrival in Canada, or returned to New Zealand – make sure this doesn't happen to you. 

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