Companion animals

Companion animals


Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ believes there are nothing but good reasons to sterilize dogs and cats and, therefore, strongly urges the spaying/neutering of all dogs and cats not part of a responsible breeding program.

Humane Canada™ supports early (prepubertal) spay/neuter of cats and dogs and recommends that all pet licensing authorities establish substantially higher rates for licensing of unsterilized versus sterilized dogs and cats.

Humane Canada™ recommends that all those involved in the sale or adoption of dogs and cats incorporate a spay/neuter program as part of their sale or adoption procedures.


Spay (female) and neuter (male) of dogs and cats is one of the most important aspects of reducing pet overpopulation by preventing the birth of unwanted offspring. It also carries behavioural and health benefits for dogs and cats, including the reduction of sexual behaviours (marking, aggression, roaming, etc.) as well as a reduction in the risk of some diseases (cancers, prostatic diseases). Spaying or neutering pets is an essential component of responsible pet ownership.

Most dogs and cats can be safely spayed/neutered from 8 weeks of age. As with all veterinary procedures, owners should consult with their veterinarian to discuss the implications of the optimum age for spay/neuter for their pet.

Providing a licensing rate differential has been proven to increase the number of spayed/neutered dogs and cats, thereby reducing the number of unwanted and abandoned pets, as well as the costs for municipal enforcement and animal control.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ endorses appropriate municipal animal control programs for companion animals and supports the differentiated licensing of companion animals as part of its encouragement of spay/neuter programs. Additionally, Humane Canada™, in consideration for the safety of the animals, is opposed to companion animals being allowed to run at large.

Humane Canada™ further believes that cats kept as companion animals should be kept inside. If they are allowed outside they should be confined to a totally enclosed outdoor exercise area that has been prepared for their use, or be under the control of a responsible person. 

Humane Canada™ opposes the mandatory surrender of animals from pounds for research, testing or teaching purposes.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ accepts that euthanasia of companion animals is a necessary and humane means to end the lives of animals that are in severe or incurable physical distress or for animals with severe behavioural problems, such as aggression, that pose a threat to humans or other animals. Humane Canada™ also acknowledges that open admission shelters and animal control agencies are too often faced with the difficult decision of euthanizing healthy, adoptable animals rather than turning animals away when they have no more space for all the animals in need in their community.

Promoting responsible pet ownership and companion animal adoption, as well as reducing irresponsible breeding are the most effective ways of addressing pet overpopulation and reducing the burden on SPCAs, humane societies and municipal animal services.

Humane Canada™ supports the use of only humane methods of euthanasia carried out by trained personnel to ensure the animal experiences no more than minimal discomfort, fear or anxiety.


Humane societies, SPCAs, rescue groups and municipal animal control services all play an important role in providing a safe haven for animals in their communities to be reunited with their owners or to find new homes. Humane Canada™ applauds these groups and joins them in promoting companion animal adoption and responsible pet ownership, which includes spay/neuter, permanent identification, lifetime veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, grooming, and shelter, and adequate human/animal socialization.

When shelters reach the point of overcrowding, it threatens the welfare of all animals in a facility due to stress, weakened immune systems and increased risk of disease transmission. In such cases, euthanasia decisions are made in the best interests of the overall population as well as the individual animals.

In concert with humane organizations and veterinary associations across North America, Humane Canada™ considers euthanasia by injection of sodium pentobarbital to be the preferred method. Humane Canada™ acknowledges that for reasons of limited financial resources and lack of access to drugs or to veterinarians, many shelters are unable to use this controlled substance. There are other methods that are acceptable when performed according to strict standards and protocols. No matter what method is used, euthanasia must only be performed by properly trained and certified personnel.

Position statement:

Humane Canada™ is opposed to surgical alterations of companion animals for cosmetic reasons (i.e.: tail docking, ear cropping, etc.) and supports the abolition of such practices.


Such procedures do not benefit the animal in any way and may be detrimental to the animal’s health and welfare. These cosmetic procedures expose the animal to the risk of anaesthetic and possible complications. Humane Canada™ encourages breed associations and the Canadian Kennel Club to change their breed standards so that cosmetic procedures are not required.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ is opposed to the selective breeding of animals that produce changes in bodily form and/or function that are detrimental to their health or quality of life.

Position statement: 

Humane Canada™ is opposed to the trade or keeping of wild or exotic animals as pets.


A wild or exotic animal is any animal, native or non-native to Canada, that has not been subject to domestication through many generations of selective and controlled breeding and thereby adapted to living in close association with humans.


  • Domestic animal species have been selectively bred and managed for hundreds and thousands of years based on preferred attributes such as temperament and behaviour. Nondomestic animal species are often unpredictable, potentially dangerous and, by reason of these factors as well as by reason of their own needs, are unsuitable to keep as pets.
  • Wild or exotic animals are often acquired without full knowledge of the specific physiological, psychological, social, environmental, behavioural and exercise needs of the species. Many of these needs cannot be met when these animals are kept as pets.
  • The trade or keeping of wild or exotic animals as pets causes suffering and death through capture, transport, abandonment and improper care.
  • Escape, release or abandonment of wild or exotic animals may threaten animal and human health and the viability of native wildlife.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ condemns the mass breeding of companion animals for commercial sale and urges the public to learn how to recognize and avoid these profitable but uncaring and unscrupulous operations, which have little regard for the welfare of the animals, as evidenced by the suffering and exploitation involved. Humane Canada™ further opposes the sale of animals in pet stores because of the contribution to an already tragic overpopulation of pets and encourages pet stores to support satellite adoptions with humane societies, SPCAs and rescue groups. Humane Canada™ recommends adoption from local humane societies, SPCAs and rescues as a reputable source of companion animals.


Puppies are the most commonly known species involved in mass breeding. As a member of the National Companion Animal Coalition, Humane Canada™ accepts the NCAC definition of a puppy mill:

The term puppy mill generally refers to a high-volume, sub-standard dog breeding operation, which sells purebred or mixed breed dogs, directly or indirectly, to unsuspecting buyers.

Some of the characteristics common to puppy mills are:

  • sub-standard health and/or environmental conditions;
  • sub-standard animal care, treatment and/or socialization;
  • sub-standard breeding practices which lead to genetic defects or hereditary disorders;
  • erroneous or falsified certificates of registration, pedigrees and/or genetic background

These conditions may also exist in small volume or single-breed establishments.

NOTE: There is currently no recognized definition of commercial breeding operations for other species; however Humane Canada™ believes the characteristics would be similar for kittens, rabbits, hamsters, birds or any other mass produced animal.


Mass breeding operations thrive because animal breeding is not adequately regulated, allowing breeders to profit from their operations with no accountability for the well-being of the animals in their care. Further, people continue to buy pets on impulse without doing enough research. Mass breeders generally sell their animals to pet stores, often through brokers, as well as directly to consumers through classified advertisements in newspapers and on the internet through “buy and sell” websites.

When people buy these animals, they are supporting proliferation of unscrupulous and inhumane operations. Humane Canada™ urges those looking for a pet to do plenty of research, visit breeding facilities, viewing of the bitch and/or sire and screen sellers by asking questions about their animals, including breeding practices, health and genetic issues, temperament, etc.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ strongly advocates the adoption of animals from reputable shelters, rescue organizations or their satellite adoption centres. Humane Canada™ also accepts the acquisition of animals from responsible breeders (see definition).

Humane Canada™ condemns puppy mills (see definition) and opposes the sale of cats and dogs in markets or pet stores other than satellite adoption centres and also disapproves of large-scale commercial breeders and ‘backyard breeders’.

Humane Canada™ strongly cautions against using the internet as the source of a companion animal without carrying out reference checks, extensive telephone interviews and other methods of ensuring the source is a responsible breeder or shelter.


Humane Canada™ urges all shelters and breeders to fully screen potential adopters/buyers and carry out temperament assessments of the animals to ensure the placement of animals into appropriate and caring homes. Humane Canada™ also strongly urges prospective companion animal owners to fully research the species and breed of choice (or mix of breeds) to ensure they are well informed about and prepared to meet the needs of their chosen companion animal. Prospective companion animal owners interested in purchasing from a breeder should also carefully screen breeders and their facilities to ensure they purchase only from responsible breeders (see definition).

Humane Canada™ advocates that companion animal stores restrict their sale of live animals to domesticated and captive-bred birds, fish and small mammals other than cats and dogs. Humane Canada™ believes that the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores (other than shelter adoption centres) promotes impulse buying and is an outlet for puppy and kitten mill animals. In addition, the environment in a retail store is not appropriate to properly meet the needs of young animals.

The internet can be a good source of information for prospective companion animal owners to research breeds, breeders, etc. However, it also provides a perfect forum for unscrupulous breeders or brokers to operate virtually anonymously with little fear of exposure. The responsible purchase or adoption of a companion animal involves a great deal of personal interaction between the seller or shelter and the animal’s potential owner. In addition, it is important for the potential owner to see the facilities where the animals are housed and to meet the animals. Without this interaction, it is difficult for prospective companion animal owners to determine the type of breeder or shelter with which they are dealing.

Definition of a Responsible Breeder:

Responsible breeders are individuals who have focused their efforts on one or a select few breeds and, through breeding, historical research and ongoing study, mentoring relationships, club memberships, showing, raising and training of these breeds, have become knowledgeable about their health, heritable defects, temperament and behaviour. Responsible breeders are well suited to educate and screen potential buyers/adopters and provide follow-up support after purchase or adoption. Responsible breeders take lifetime responsibility for the animals they have bred.

How to recognize a responsible breeder:

  • Breeds purebred dogs or cats of only one or two breeds and does not have more animals than they can provide with good care
  • Gladly shows you their entire facility where dogs or cats are kept and introduces you to all their dogs or cats – both adults and puppies or kittens
  • Their breeding dogs or cats and offspring are healthy, well socialized and appear to be receiving good care
  • Screens and counsels potential purchasers, discussing positive and negative aspects of the animal/breed
  • Has working knowledge of genetics and will talk to potential purchasers about heritable disorders in the breed and how they are working to prevent them. (Every breed has tendencies toward certain heritable disorders.)
  • Screens all breeding stock for heritable diseases and removes affected animals from breeding program. Affected animals are spayed/neutered and may be placed as companion animals as long as health issues are disclosed to buyers/adopters
  • Provides puppy or kitten buyers with proper paperwork, including Canadian Kennel Club registration papers (for dogs), pedigree information, vaccination certificates and copies of health clearances for the sire and dam of the litter
  • Bases breeding frequency on mother’s health, age, condition and recuperative abilities and does not breed extremely young or old animals
  • Raises their puppies or kittens in their home where they are provided with plenty of care and socialization to people, household noises, etc.
  • Ensures neonates are kept clean, warm, fed, vetted and with the mother until weaned; puppies or kittens don’t go to new homes before 8 weeks of age
  • Complies with all applicable laws regulating breeders in their jurisdiction
  • Never sells puppies or kittens to a companion animal dealer or pet store
  • Offers guidance and support to puppy or kitten buyers and will take back any animal of their breeding, at any time and for any reason
  • Provides an adoption/purchase contract in plain language that spells out breeder’s responsibilities, purchaser’s responsibilities, health guarantees and return policy
  • Provides accurate and reliable health, vaccination and pedigree information for the puppy or kitten

Definition of a Puppy Mill:

Definition as Agreed by the National Companion Animal Coalition:

The term puppy mill generally refers to a high-volume, sub-standard dog breeding operation, which sells purebred or mixed breed dogs, directly or indirectly, to unsuspecting buyers. Some of the characteristics common to puppy mills are:

  • sub-standard health and/or environmental conditions;
  • sub-standard animal care, treatment and/or socialization;
  • sub-standard breeding practices which lead to genetic defects or hereditary disorders;
  • erroneous or falsified certificates of registration, pedigrees and/or genetic background

 Note: These conditions may also exist in small volume or single-breed establishments.

Definition of a Satellite Adoption Centre:

A satellite adoption centre is a pet store or other location that does not sell cats and dogs, but instead has cats and dogs from a humane society, SPCA or rescue organization available for adoption. Interested adopters must be approved under the same adoption screening process that the society has in place for all animals adopted from the society.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ supports the proper identification of all companion animals with visible methods such as licenses or tags, as well as permanent identification such as microchips or humanely applied tattoos. Humane Canada supports microchipping as the preferred method of permanent identification.


Lack of proper identification prevents the majority of companion animals from being reunited with their owners. Identification of companion animals is a necessary requirement for the successful return of lost companion animals. Humane Canada™ recommends that the implantation of microchips only be carried out by veterinarians or qualified persons knowledgeable regarding the procedure and this system of identification. Humane Canada™ supports ISO technology for microchips as established by the National Companion Animal Coalition.

Position Statement:

Humane Canada™ believes that the acquisition of an animal should be a deliberate and conscious decision to influence the future well-being of the animal. Humane Canada™ is therefore opposed to the awarding of any live animal as a prize or unsolicited present.

Position statement:

Humane Canada™ is opposed to the declawing of cats, but reluctantly accepts declawing if it is the only alternative to having the cat euthanized. Humane Canada™ believes it is the responsibility of cat owners to become educated on the subject of declawing and its alternatives. The declawing of cats should be a last resort when behaviour modification has been ineffective and euthanasia or abandonment will result if the behaviour does not cease. Humane Canada™ strongly supports the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s position statement on Onychectomy (Declawing) of the Domestic Feline.


  • Declawing is an unnecessary procedure that may involve a painful recovery for the animal – as with any surgical procedure, there are inherent risks involved such as anesthetic complications, hemorrhaging and pain.
  • Scratching is a normal feline behaviour – owners are therefore responsible for providing suitable items for normal scratching behaviour such as scratching posts, cardboard boxes etc. and reward good scratching behaviour with positive reinforcement.
  • Too often, cats are declawed before owners educate themselves and research humane alternatives – destructive clawing behaviour can often be curbed.
  • Declawed cats should be housed indoors at all times.
  • Appropriate claw care (trimming the claws every 1-2 weeks) should be provided to prevent injury or damage to household items.
  • Scientific data does indicate that cats that have destructive clawing behaviour are more likely to be euthanized, released or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. When scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable household pet in a particular home, declawing may be considered.

Position statement: 

Humane Canada™ recognizes that feral cats cannot be defined as ‘wildlife’ in that they are not a naturally-occurring wild species. Rather, feral cats are descended from domestic animals that, due to human neglect, have been forced to live as wild animals. As such, their care is society’s responsibility.

Given the poor quality of life that feral cats typically lead, as well as broader concerns such as environmental impact and public health, the goal of feral cat management programs should be to gradually eliminate feral cat colonies by a process of "aging out" their members. In this scenario, colonies would be maintained in a healthy state and prevented from reproducing, leading to the eventual attrition of members.

Humane Canada™ supports a multi-faceted approach to dealing with feral cats, including: a TNVR (trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate and release) program, including, where appropriate, subsequent monitoring and the euthanasia of diseased animals whose health is deemed unrecoverable or whose illness poses immediate jeopardy to other cats (specifically, felines that test positive for infectious FELEUK and FIV and/or who exhibit definitive behaviour consistent with rabies).

Humane Canada™ is convinced that, to be effective, any feral cat management program must address the underlying cause(s) of feral cat colonies. This can be accomplished by an ongoing public awareness and education initiative that would emphasize, among other things, the consequences of allowing cats to roam freely. The goal of such an initiative would be to lower the incidence of stray/feral cats, thereby preventing new colonies and also the re-population of existing groups.

A feral cat is an unowned, free-roaming cat that has never lived with humans.

Position Statement:

Owners of any breed of dog must understand that any dog can bite, that no dog is completely trustworthy and that close supervision is essential when children are in the presence of a dog. Owners who choose breeds or mixes of breeds that have been historically used for guarding, fighting or chasing prey must understand and appropriately manage the potential risks associated with these dogs.

There are many contributing factors to most dog bite incidents, including poor breeding practices, inadequate socialization and training, health or behavioural issues, inadequate supervision and/or control of the dog.

Humane Canada™ does not support laws banning individual breeds. Apart from the issues noted above, consistent and fair enforcement of such laws can be difficult due to the challenge of reliably identifying the breed or breed mix. Breed specific legislation cannot take into account the issue of developing or newly introduced breeds or breed mixes. In any event, determination of a dog’s breed or breed mix is not necessarily indicative or determinative of an individual dog’s temperament or propensity to aggression.

Humane Canada™ supports legislation and programs that encourage informed, responsible dog ownership including spay/neuter, licensing, permanent identification, leash laws, socializing and humane obedience training. Humane Canada™ believes dog owners should be held accountable for any harm or damage their pets do to people, property or other animals.

Learn more about the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies work for Companion Animals!
Companion animals
Humane Canada (also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies) is Canada's federation of SPCAs and humane societies, representing the largest animal welfare community in Canada.