There are important considerations to remember and follow when adopting and importing pets from overseas to ensure animals and humans in Toronto and Ontario are protected against diseases such as rabies. While the risk of rabies transmission in Canada from dogs and cats is considered to be low, the risk is considerably higher in many other countries. The Canadian government recognizes these countries as rabies-free for cats and dogs. According to the World Health Organization, rabies infection continues to cause tens of thousands of human deaths globally every year, mainly in Asia and Africa, and in up to 99 per cent of these cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans.
If you and/or your family are interested in adopting a dog from a breeder, rescue organization, or shelter, there is important information you should consider in order to avoid importing or accepting a sick and/or infectious dog that may pose a risk to your health, the health of others and the health of other local animals here in Ontario.
There are also animal welfare concerns associated with transporting dogs from overseas. Imported dogs can also have significant behavioural issues if they were not properly socialized and never lived in a home prior to being adopted, which can lead to an increased risk of biting.
Before adopting a dog, especially from another country:
After adopting a dog, especially from another country:
To help protect people and pets from rabies, Ontario law (Regulation 567, Rabies Immunization) requires animal owners to vaccinate dogs, cats and ferrets over 3 months of age against rabies. The vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian registered in the province of Ontario and with a rabies vaccine licensed for use by Health Canada. If you have imported an animal from outside of Ontario, you must ensure it is vaccinated against rabies in Ontario as required by Regulation 567, Rabies Immunization, even if the animal has a current rabies vaccination certificate from another jurisdiction.
Additional precautions to follow include:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for regulating the importation of animals, including dogs, into Canada. The importation of animals is regulated to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases, such as rabies, that could have adverse health impacts on local animals and people.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for conducting inspections on behalf of the CFIA. If an animal is found to be non-compliant with the CFIA’s humane transport and/or import requirements, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) may refuse the animal entry or refer it to the CFIA for further inspection.
Breeders, rescue agencies and shelters should review the CFIA’s requirements for importing animals from other counties. Be aware that new regulatory requirements for importing commercial dogs less than 8 months of age for breeding or resale (including adoption) came into effect in May 2021.
In addition, these organizations should ensure prospective owners or caretakers of all animals they provide, including imported animals, are given appropriate and sufficient information (see above) to manage any risks to animal and human health.