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Visiting Banff National Park with Your Pet

by Kelly Smith

Crossing the Border

If you have pets and you’re traveling to Banff National Park or the towns of CanmoreLake Louise, or Banff, you’re going to have to do a little extra preparing to make sure the trip goes smoothly.

If you’re crossing borders to vacation in Banff or anywhere the Canadian Rockies, and you’re bringing a pet, you’ll want to have some basic information about border crossing with pets.

Your dog may not have to get a snap shot and fork out for a passport to get between countries but there are still regulations that need to be followed for it to cross borders. This applies not just for dogs but also for cats, birds, reptiles, horses and all other animals. Here are a few points to get you organized for the trip.

Even Those Eyes Need the Right Documentation.

  • You will most likely need a pet health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian.
  • Give yourself time before traveling to ensure you have all the correct documents for human and animals alike. Sometimes they can take a while to process.
  • As with any traveling situation, there can always be confusion. The best idea is to directly contact the appropriate authority in whichever country you are traveling from and to. The links are provided below.
  • In Canada: The National Animal Health Program is responsible for establishing import requirements for pets coming into Canada.
  • In the United States: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the import of pets and other animals.

Canadian Rockies’ Pet Travel Checklist

Medications: You wouldn’t forget Granny’s meds (hopefully) so why forget the dogs? Also make sure your pet is in good condition to travel. As far as we are concerned, dog burying services aren’t too common up here.

Kennel or carrier: It’s the safest way for your pet to travel and many places insist that dogs are kenneled.

Food and Water bowls: The easiest things to remember are often forgotten.

Food: Keeping your dog on the same diet can help make the transition to a new location even smoother.

Can Opener: Don’t assume there will be one where you are going.

Stain Remover: Dog’s are like children. You can trust them with stains as far as you can throw them (not far). You can save yourself serious cash in fines if you are prepared to clean any messes yourself.

Extra Towels: See above note about stain remover. Also, you never know when your dog will go for an unexpected swim, or will need a bath after rolling in some unidentifiable substance.

Collars and Leashes: Absolutely necessary in most places. Bring spares just in case.

Identification: Bring all documentation and tags and make sure all contact information is completely up to date.

Recent Photo: Grab a snapshot of your pet just in case he gets lost. It will make the search mission easier.

Research local laws: Particularly for those travelling with controversial animals (pitbulls, cobras, alligators, etc.) You don’t want to turn back after driving all those hours!

Questions to Ask When You Travel the Canadian Rockies With Pets

Are there additional fees? As you can see from our pet-friendly accommodation section, most pet-friendly hotels charge an extra fee for pets. The fee usually varies between $10 and $30, so make sure to take this into your calculations.

What types, size, and maximum number of pets are accepted? This varies in every situation. There are usually restrictions on how many pets you are allowed have at one time. Sometimes only small dogs are allowed.

Are there resident pets? Sometimes there are, especially in backcountry areas. Smaller accommodations such as Bed & Breakfasts or cottage resorts often have resident pets that sometimes mingle with guests. Be careful to make sure every your pet can mingle happily with its new housemates.

What other rules or restrictions apply to pets? There are many exceptions that could apply. For example, some hotels insist that the dog must be leashed at all times. Rarely are dogs allowed in public swimming areas. Usually it is requested that they are not left alone in the room.

What type of rooms are available to pet owners? Typically, there are rooms set aside for pet owners. Often these rooms are as close as possible to ground level with easy access to the outdoors.

What other services are available for pets? These days, a doggy welcome basket is not so uncommon in pet-friendly accommodations. Water bowls, waste bags and the other necessary amenities are also becoming more popular.

Park Regulations regarding dogs

Dogs are allowed in Canada’s National Parks if they are accompanied by a person on a three-metre or ten-foot leash.

However, dogs that are unfamiliar with wild life may put their humans in jeopardy. Be aware that travelling in bear country with your canine companion may be exciting, to say the least.Fido might come running back to you with a bear, cougar or coyote in pursuit.

Two years ago, a couple were walking their Spaniel on the Bourgeau Lake Trail in Banff National Park. They noticed their pet sniffing the air. When they looked up the hillside in the direction their dog was facing, they saw a grizzly bear also sniffing the air. The bear came down the hill and stood nose to nose to the small dog. The couple stood frozen, attached to their dog by the leash. Finding this situation a little too exciting, the hikers dropped the leash and backed up slowly.

The two animals started to paw at each other and play, one jumping over the other. Just having fun! The bear was a young 3 – 4 year old grizzly that still lives in the area. The hikers left the area and headed down the trail to their car. They didn’t know what to do about their dog. Obviously the dog hadn’t consulted them so there wasn’t much they could do. Ten minutes later, they noticed their dog trotting along behind in the distance. The dog wasn’t running, just trotting along to catch up. The bear was following the dog. Not anxious to catch up to the dog, the bear abandoned this play after less than a kilometre. The couple however was breathless to say the least. All’s well that ends well.

Some dogs can help you on your hikes. By paying close attention to their reactions they might warn you of approaching wild life. Watch their ears and their nose. I had a trained hiking dog that would point in the direction of a bear and then walk backwards away from the bear. Don’t expect your dog to do this unless he or she has extensive training.

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