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Ask questions before you buy or adopt a dog

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If you and your family are interested in buying or adopting a dog from Canada or abroad, there are important questions you should ask.

Whether you are working with a breeder, animal welfare or rescue organization, a local shelter run by your municipality or local humane society, there are things to consider.

Questions to ask

Before you get a dog online, ask the individual or organization you are working with some key questions. If you are getting vague or unclear answers to these questions, that's a red flag.

Where are the dogs from?

Can they provide additional information about where the dog was located before being offered for sale?

If they claim to be from a breeder:

Can they provide breeder credentials or certifications and references from previous buyers?

If they claim to be from a rescue organization:

Can they provide credentials or certifications and references from previous owners?

Can they confirm how long the dog has been in which shelter (immediately from the streets or did they complete a quarantine first)?

What paperwork can they provide?

Can they provide the dog's vaccination records and other veterinary medical history?

If a veterinary certificate or veterinarian certificate of health is provided, it should confirm a few things such as:

How will they be transported?

Can they prove that the dogs will be transported safely? Anyone involved in transporting animals into, within, and leaving Canada must meet Canada's Health of Animals Regulations Part XII – Transport of Animals, which defines the conditions for humanely transporting all animals in Canada by all modes of transport.

Can I see or visit where the dogs are being housed?

Do they provide the option to visit the dog? When possible, an in-person visit is recommended to verify the source.

What happens if health issues come up after bringing the dog home?

Do they offer a policy on returns or assistance with medical bills?

5 Red flags

  1. They offer to meet you someplace neutral or ship the dog instead of letting you pick up and see the premises
  2. You can't visit the dog prior to purchase and are not permitted to visit or obtain information about the parents
  3. You're asked to send money to another country
  4. They don't ask about your experience with dogs or your lifestyle to help match the dog to you
  5. They don't provide any documents or veterinary records and offer no health guarantee or return policy in the event that health issues arise

Find out where your dog is really coming from

Did you see a post of the dog you've been looking for and now you can't stop thinking about it?

We get it, those puppy eyes are hard to resist. But it's important to resist the urge to impulsively purchase a dog online just because it's cute and available now, no questions asked. Too good to be true? Probably. In fact, that could actually be a sign of a puppy mill or of an irresponsible individual or organization.

When buying or adopting a dog online, make sure to do a bit of research about the seller first, and ask questions about the dog's situation.

It's possible for some dogs intended for sale or adoption in Canada to have been imported from abroad and exposed to diseases or parasites before coming to Canada. While Canada has animal health requirements in place to help prevent the introduction of diseases through the importation of commercial dogs, some infected dogs may not appear sick at the time of import or while they are kept in Canada before being sold.

That's why it's important to work with a reputable supplier that you have verified and trust.

Be cautious about importing a dog you have never met or when buying from an online broker or retail site so that you don't unintentionally support puppy mills, find yourself with a sick dog, or worse, face the heartbreak of having to euthanize your new pet.

Dog rabies in other countries

Dog rabies kills 59,000 people every year globally in over 100 countries that are at high-risk for dog rabies. Importing commercial dogs from these countries poses a serious public health risk to Canadians. The importation of even 1 rabid dog could result in transmission to humans, pets, and wildlife. Dog rabies is a fatal disease of the central nervous system and is 99% fatal to animals and humans once they start to show signs or symptoms. That's one of the reasons why it's important to know what country the dogs are coming from before planning to bring them into Canada to prevent the introduction and spread of serious diseases like dog rabies.

Measure prohibiting the entry of commercial dogs from countries at high-risk for dog rabies

As of September 28, 2022, the entry of commercial dogs into Canada from countries at high-risk for dog rabies is prohibited until further notice. Commercial dogs from countries at high-risk for dog rabies will not be permitted to enter Canada and import permits will no longer be issued. Commercial dogs include dogs intended for purposes such as being given/transferred to another person, resale, adoption, fostering, breeding, show or exhibition and research.

Notice to industry: New measure prohibiting the entry of commercial dogs from countries at high-risk for dog rabies.

Roles and responsibilities

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for regulating the importation of animals, including dogs, into Canada in order to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases that could negatively impact the health of both animals and humans. CFIA veterinarians administer and enforce the humane transport and import requirements at the border, including inspecting import shipments that require a permit. They are available to provide inspection services when requested by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Canada Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for inspecting certain commodities at the border on behalf of the CFIA. If an animal is found to be non-compliant with the CFIA's humane transport and/or import requirements, CBSA may refuse the animal entry or refer it to the CFIA for further inspection.

Provinces and territories

Provinces and territories are responsible for the protection and humane treatment of animals once imported, including the regulation of certain animals diseases and animal welfare.

Cities and municipalities

Cities and municipalities are responsible for business licensing and by-laws related to animals, including sales of animals and limits on numbers and types of animals that can be kept.

Anyone importing a dog into Canada

Importers are responsible for ensuring the health of the animals in their care. They must also verify and follow all relevant import requirements before entering or re-entering the country. This includes complying with all federal, provincial/territorial or municipal requirements prior to travelling. Check in advance to avoid surprises and delays.

More tips and tools to help with your dog ownership decision

Canadian Kennel Club
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Humane Canada
Friends of Humane Society International (Canada)
Pets Canada

Information for dog breeders importing commercial dogs

Information for animal welfare or rescue organizations and sellers importing commercial dogs

Additional information

Contact us

If you have a question about this notice please contact the CFIA online.


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