Snowbird Protection Checklist

Travel, home and auto insurance should never be considered as “get it and forget it” products. This is especially true for snowbirds. Along with changing protection needs, there could be limitations in place, or conditions that must be adhered to for coverage to be valid.

Take time to confirm your insurance requirements, the terms and conditions of your policies, and your responsibilities. It can be a costly mistake to assume you’re covered. If you have questions, check with your insurance provider before you leave for vacation!

Travelling With Your Dog or Cat

The rules for bringing pet dogs and cats across the Canada / U.S. border are pretty straightforward, but there are differences between the two countries – and even different U.S. States. Before leaving home, it’s a good idea to research the regulations for the border crossing you intend to use, and the state in which you will be staying.

Pet Health

A border official’s primary focus is on the health of the animal. If the animal looks sick, dangerous, or of an illegal breed, officials can refuse entry or have you pay for a veterinarian inspection. In extreme cases, they can have your animal put down. Make sure that your pet always looks clean and healthy. It is recommended you bring a health certificate from your veterinarian detailing all the shots the animal has had.

While Canadian and U.S. regulations are similar, just because your pet was allowed across the border in one direction does not mean you are guaranteed to get it back through with similar ease. Your pet must always appear healthy and satisfy regulations of both countries. You can in fact be blocked from bringing your pet back home.


If you lose your pet while travelling, you could have difficulty trying to claim it without permanent identification. At a minimum, the animal should have collar tags with the pets name, your name, and your phone number. The safest approach is to pair an external tag with a permanent microchip ID. The microchip number should be included on the collar tag. When you do this your pet will have two solid layers of protection to get them home.

Dogs and Cats

For a dog or cat 12 weeks or older, you must have a signed health certificate from a licensed veterinarian, clearly describing the animal and declaring that it is healthy and currently vaccinated against rabies. The animal description should contain a clear, detailed description of the pet including their colour, breed, gender, age and specific markings.

To enter the U.S., the rabies shot must have been given at least a full month before your trip, and the certificate should include the expiration date of the shot. If the date is not included, the shot must be refreshed every 36 months for Canada, every year for the United States. Canada does not require the 30 day lead time – the shot qualifies from the moment it is given. Also:

  • Collar tags are not sufficient proof of immunization.
  • The certificate should list the brand of rabies vaccine, the vaccine lot number, and the expiration date of the vaccine.
  • Be sure the vaccination does not expire while travelling in either country.
  • The certificate must list you as the owner of the pet. You should call the border agencies for more information if your pet is being transported by someone else.
  • Animals younger than three months are not required to have been vaccinated, although it is possible an agent could require the animal be quarantined until it is able to get its vaccination.
  • You are not permitted to cross the border with more than two animals too young for their rabies shots. This is considered commercial transportation which is governed by a different set of laws.
  • These rules can change so it is always a good idea to call the Canada Border Services Agency to confirm your situation.

Make sure you confirm you have the proper documentation early enough to get another copy if you cannot find your vaccine certificate. You may need to call the clinic that did the vaccination and request a new copy. Certificates with rabies vaccine documentation must be signed by the doctor that provided the vaccine so it can easily take more than 48 hours to get a replacement copy.

Bringing Your Pet Food Across the Border

It can be tricky to get pet food across the border, especially those that say they contain “by-products.”

  • To bring food across the border it must always be in its original packages – do not carry it in plastic containers. Any pet food in non-labeled packages may be confiscated.
  • The label should show where it was produced.
  • The ingredient list should be clearly displayed.
  • As of this writing, products containing sheep, lamb, or goat will not be allowed into the U.S.
  • Your best bet for getting food into the U.S. is to have unopened bags that state the food was made in the U.S.
  • When entering Canada, you may bring no more than 20 kg, it must be of U.S. or Canadian origin, and the pet that will eat the imported product must be with you.
Bringing a Service Dog Across the Border

This is one area in which Canadian and American laws differ. Service dogs are allowed into Canada without rabies shots so long as you are the person assigned to the dog. However, service dogs brought into the U.S. must meet the same requirements as any other pet dog.

We welcome travellers who are not yet members of CARP!

A national, non-profit organization, “CARP advocates for better health care and financial security for Canadians as we age and gives its members access to great benefits and discounts”. To learn more about CARP, please click the CARP logo at the top of this page.

As CARP’s recommended and trusted provider since 1993, The McLennan Group Life Insurance Inc. is a 100% Canadian owned, nationally licensed all-lines brokerage. And we’re 50-plus insurance specialists. So even if you’re not a member of CARP, call us at 1.877.566.1417 and we’ll work to offer a coverage solution for your needs.