(Based on a Korea to Canada Experience)

Last summer, my husband and I left Korea to come back to Canada with our two rabbits. It was a bit of a complicated process, but well worth it to make sure our rabbits stayed with us. The following is a bit of a “how-to”, in hopes that some others will make the decision to keep their rabbits in their forever homes!

When do I start looking into the process?

Start looking into the process for your home country at least 4 months in advance. Start by looking up your home state/province animal import restrictions. If you are Canadian, you need to look at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) guidelines and contact your local office. All of the information is online, and also has provincial and local telephone numbers if you need further assistance.

Which airlines allow rabbits?

At this time, United Airlines is the only one that will allow rabbits in-cabin as a carry on to go under the seat in front you (like a small dog or cat). Having your rabbit in-cabin is the ONLY way I would recommend flying with him/her. I’ve read stories of people flying their rabbits in cargo and everything has turned out fine, but it is my personal belief that your rabbit will be much more comfortable and feel much safer knowing you are right there. Book your airline ticket as soon as possible to ensure your rabbit has a reservation (the airline only allows so many animals per flight). I was lucky enough to have a great employer in Korea that allowed me to book my own ticket and just gave me back the money. Call the airline a couple times in the months and weeks leading up to your departure to ensure your rabbit’s reservation.

What documents do I need?

Step 1: Apply for an import permit (I had to go through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the form is online).

Step 2: Once your import permit has been approved you can go ahead and figure out the quarantine process. In Canada, the 30-day quarantine can be done right in your home. My parents were a great help and went to the pet store to get all of the cage and food items I needed for my rabbit. They then set up a spare room for the rabbit. Once that was done, someone from the CFIA came to approve the quarantine room before the rabbits left Korea.

Step 3: You MUST have the original import permit when entering Canada, so have a loved one mail it to you.

Step 4: In the last 10 days before your departure, take your rabbit to your vet for their health certificate. For Canada, there are a couple of diseases you need to make sure the certificate states your rabbit does not have (this is all outlined in the import permit). The vet will give your rabbit a quick check over and give you the health certificate.

Step 5: At the airport in Canada the rabbits will need to be looked over by the CFIA vet there. Depending on your arrival time this may need to be booked in advance. Call the airport to make sure.

Step 6: Get to the Incheon airport early the day of your departure. You need to go to the Animal and Plant Quarantine Office and exchange your vet’s health certificate for an English certificate.

How do I prepare my rabbit for the flight?

Start by finding a nice travel carrier for your rabbit. I suggest soft-shelled to ensure your rabbit's comfort. Make sure that your rabbit is used to the carrier and knows it’s a safe place. Your rabbit probably won’t eat or drink much on the flight, so make sure he/she is well fed prior. I set up our rabbits’ travel carriers by lining the bottoms with dog pee pads, a couple of containers filled with food, and a water bottle. I packed a carry on bag with extra food, treats and pee pads. Also make sure that you have all of your rabbit’s documents in your carry on bag.

How do I take care of my rabbit during the flight?

Every rabbit is going to deal with the flight differently. Our female rabbit was quite content, munched on hay, drank her water, and accepted treats at every opportunity. Our male rabbit was a bit more stressed and didn’t eat or drink much of anything. This was reflective of their individual personalities. During takeoff and landing try to entice your rabbit to eat by giving them treats that are crunchy. This will help with any ear popping. During your flight, periodically unzip the carrier a little to give your rabbit some head pets, and make sure they are doing OK. If you have a layover, find a quiet space to change your rabbit’s pee pad and give them some fresh food and water.

I should also add that in the airport when you go through security you will have to take your rabbit out of his/her travel carrier. This is the worst part of the entire process, because you get a lot of attention from fellow travelers and the security officers. Try to do it as fast as possible, as this is the scariest time for your rabbit.

I’ve landed, now what?

You need to declare that you have a live animal with customs. This is where the airport CFIA vet will check over your rabbit. You will also need to pay an import fee.

How is my rabbit taken out of quarantine?

A day or two after you’ve landed your local CFIA vet will come to your house to check over the rabbit. After 30 days, they will come back again to release your rabbit from quarantine. It’s just a paper that needs to be signed.

What are the expenses associated with this process?

You need to be aware that flying with a rabbit is a lot more expensive than if it were a dog or cat. I will try to outline what we paid for as best as possible (prices are in Canadian dollars):

  • import permit = $30
  • quarantine inspection (all 3 home visits* included in one price) = $100
  • Korean vet health check and certificate = $50
  • airport health certificate = $30
  • airline animal reservation = $125
  • Canadian import fee at airport = $130

* The quarantine officer visits before the rabbits arrive, shortly after arrival, and again at the time of the release.

These fees are based on one rabbit. For my husband and I these costs were doubled because we had two. So yes, it was quite expensive, but so, so worth it!

Written by Nicole Christie. If you have questions about transporting rabbits, you can contact Nicole by email at nl.christie [AT] gmail [DOT] com