Humane Canada™ consulted on the language of Bill C-246, The Modernizing Animal Protections Act, a Private Member’s Bill introduced in the House of Commons on February 26, 2016, by Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches-East York). This Bill aimed to close a number of loopholes in the current federal animal cruelty provisions. More often than not, it is these loopholes that allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist rather than an appropriate punishment.
At the heart of this bill was the proposed creation of a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animal’s welfare. The bill also promised to close the loopholes related to animal fighting by making it illegal to train, breed or convey animals for the purpose of fighting or profit from dog fighting. Unfortunately, Bill C-246 was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday, October 5, 2016.
Recently, attempts have been made to hold the Canadian government accountable for closing these legal loopholes through initiatives like e-petition e-718 (petition is now closed).
Below, you will find information on previous attempts to update Canada's federal animal cruelty provisions.
On June 9 2014, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal) introduced Bill C-610, which would have created a new offence for the inadequate and negligent care of animals. The bill would have established it as an offence to negligently cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or bird. It would have become an offence to willfully or recklessly abandon an animal or fail to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter, and care. It would have also punished those who negligently injure an animal or bird while it is being conveyed.
On April 9, 2014, the NDP MP Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce – Lachine) took up the gauntlet again by introducing Bill C-592, which would have provided a better definition of "animal", defined intentions and acts of cruelty and set the higher penalties for those found guilty. C-592 reached second reading but did not become law.
Bill C-274 and C-277
On September 19, 2011, Liberal MP Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre) introduced Bills C-274 and C-277, which would have consolidated animal cruelty offences, created a new section in the Criminal Code of Canada for animal cruelty offences and increased the maximum penalties for animal abuse. Unfortunately, both bills died before becoming law.
Bill S-24, S-203 and S-213
In February 2005, Liberal Senator John Bryden from New Brunswick, tabled Bill S-24. This bill took the entire penalties section from the Liberal government bill, but made no changes to the offences. Humane Canada™ and other animal protection groups strongly opposed this bill. So did the Canadian public – a petition with almost 112,000 signatures was tabled in the House of Commons in 2007 opposing Senator Bryden’s bill. The introduction of this bill changed things dramatically, as most industry groups supported the Senator’s bill. This bill also fell victim to parliamentary prorogation three times, but Senator Bryden retabled it as Bill S-203 and then S-213. The latter ultimately passed through the Senate and the House and was enacted in June 2008.
In December 1999, then Justice Minister Anne McLellan tabled Bill C-17 in the House of Commons. Bill C-17 died shortly after it was introduced due to an election being called early in 2000. Over the next several years, the Liberal government repeatedly brought the bill forward, but it repeatedly died due to prorogation of Parliament. The bill was named Bill C-15, C-15B, C-10, C-10B, C-22 and C-50. In 2003, Bill C-10B came extremely close to passing and was supported by all parties in the House, but the Senate blocked its passage.
Once the Conservative Party was in power, Member of Parliament Mark Holland brought forward a private member’s bill in October 2006 that was virtually identical to Bill C-50. Mr. Holland retabled his Bill repeatedly as it died with prorogation. In addition, the NDP tabled its own bill, C-558, in June 2008. Neither became law.
On July 24, 2015, the Justice for Animals in Service Act, or Quanto’s Law, was enacted as part of the federal animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada, making the harming or killing of police, military or other service animals a special offence.
The law's more common name is a memorial to Police Dog Quanto, a German shepherd with four years of service and more than 100 arrests to his name, who was killed on the job in Edmonton in 2013.
Paul Vukmanich, who killed Police Dog Quanto, was sentenced to 26 months in prison after pleading guilty to six charges in court, including one charge for killing the dog. But the short prison sentence was controversial and sparked a nationwide conversation about the need for specific laws to address service animal cruelty.
Humane Canada was proud to take a lead role in advocating for this law, and we’ve already seen charges being brought forward to discourage the assault and murder of service animals in Canada. The specifics of the law can be found below, including minimum/maximum sentences and applicable fines.
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals)
This enactment amends the Criminal Code of Canada to better protect law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals and to ensure that offenders who harm those animals or assault peace officers are held fully accountable.
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:
This Act may be cited as the Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto’s Law).
R.S., c. C-46 CRIMINAL CODE
The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 270.02:
Marginal note: Sentences to be served consecutively
270.03 A sentence imposed on a person for an offence under subsection 270(1) or 270.01(1) or section 270.02 committed against a law enforcement officer, as defined in subsection 445.01(4), shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.
The Act is amended by adding the following after section 445:
Marginal note: Killing or injuring certain animals
445.01 (1) Every one commits an offence who, wilfully and without lawful excuse, kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a law enforcement animal while it is aiding a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer’s duties, a military animal while it is aiding a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member’s duties or a service animal.
Marginal note: Punishment
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years and, if a law enforcement animal is killed in the commission of the offence, to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine of not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months or to both.
Marginal note:Sentences to be served consecutively
(3) A sentence imposed on a person for an offence under subsection (1) committed against a law enforcement animal shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.
(4) The following definitions apply in this section.
"law enforcement animal"
« animal d’assistance policière »
"law enforcement animal" means a dog or horse that is trained to aid a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer’s duties.
"law enforcement officer"
« agent de contrôle d’application de la loi »
"law enforcement officer" means a police officer, a police constable or any person referred to in paragraph (b), (c.1), (d), (d.1), (e) or (g) of the definition "peace officer" in section 2.
« animal d’assistance militaire »
"military animal" means an animal that is trained to aid a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member’s duties.
« animal d’assistance »
"service animal" means an animal that is required by a person with a disability for assistance and is certified, in writing, as having been trained by a professional service animal institution to assist a person with a disability.
The Act is amended by adding the following after section 718.02:
Marginal note: Objectives — offence against certain animals
718.03 When a court imposes a sentence for an offence under subsection 445.01(1), the court shall give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of the conduct that forms the basis of the offence.
One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to help animals is to meet with your Member of Parliament to discuss an animal welfare issue.
Your MP represents you and others in your community. Let them know how strongly you feel about animal welfare by visiting your MP in person. This demonstrates that improving Canada's animal welfare laws and policies truly matters to their constituents.
Read Humane Canada's tips below on having the most fruitful meeting possible with your MP.
Making the most of a visit with your MP requires a bit of preparation and planning. Be sure to phone your MP’s office first to request a meeting. You can find your MP here.
Before you go to the meeting make sure you:
- Have a copy of supporting materials that back up your position.
- Have a clear request for your MP. You may ask them to support or oppose proposed legislation, raise an issue in the House of Commons, or speak to a Minister about an animal welfare issue.
- Dress appropriately (business casual).
5 easy steps to a successful meeting
If you come across as reasonable and knowledgeable, your MP is more likely to support your request and to help you advance animal welfare at the federal level.
- Come in prepared to have a friendly conversation. Don’t forget to ask "How are you?" and listen to the answer. It’s about building a relationship, not inundating your MP with information and opinions.
- Ask some open-ended questions. For example: "What is your personal opinion on this issue?" or "Do you know how much this issue matters to people in your community?"
- Be fair and listen to their reasons for opposing or supporting your issue.
- Try to find common ground by taking some mainstream positions. If you sound or act like you're on the margins, you are. Having the conversation on their level or within your MP’s comfort zone will make it easier for them to change their mind. Focus on solutions and don’t leave it up to your MP. Offer them a fix for the problem.
- Be yourself and stay calm. Show that you’re confident. After all, you're fighting the good fight! MPs have to deal with a lot of people, many of them hot-headed or overly emotional. Your MP is more likely to appreciate and respect you if you have a relaxed, low-key conversation than something rehearsed or over-the-top.
• Before leaving, try to get a clear commitment of help from your MP, not just vague promises.
• After the meeting, send an email thanking your MP for meeting with you and reiterate any commitments they made.
If you have any further questions, contact us at email@example.com.
Humane Canada™, also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, believes that the best place to acquire a pet is from a reputable animal shelter, and we urge Canadians not to buy pets through classifieds, the internet or pet stores.
The internet and pet stores are the main points of sale for puppy and kitten mills, in which animals are mistreated, neglected and bred continuously to maximize profit. In general, responsible breeders do not sell their puppies or kittens to pet stores because they want to meet their buyers in person to ensure each animal goes to a suitable home.
A pet bought at a store is often an impulse buy, which makes future abandonment of the animal more likely. Meanwhile, thousands of adoptable animals who are in crowded shelters across Canada continue to go without homes.
Humane Canada™ supports the restrictions on retail animal sales that are being implemented or considered in cities across Canada. They will prove to be a useful tool in the fight against pet overpopulation and inhumane breeding operations.
What you can do:
- Write to your mayor and municipal councillor: ask them to consider a bylaw to restrict the sale of live animals from pet stores. At the very least, the retail sale of animals who are not spayed or neutered should be prohibited.
- Email, call or write to stores that sell kittens, puppies and other animals: tell them that you will not shop there until they stop selling animals and start an adoption program instead. Tell them they can put their cages to better use and build goodwill in the community by displaying animals up for adoption from local shelters or rescue groups — as many other pet stores already do.
- Encourage everyone you know to adopt pets: Hundreds of thousands of adoptable animals need homes, and they need our help. Adopting is one of only ways to guarantee you're getting your pet from an ethical source!
Below are sample municipal bylaws regulating the keeping and control of companion animals.
Note: Municipalities should refer to their applicable provincial/municipal act governing municipalities to determine their precise authority on the subject of animal care and control in addition to consulting their municipal legal department.
- "Animal" means all species of fauna, excluding humans, fish and aquatic invertebrates.
- "Cat" means a male or female domesticated cat.
- "Cattery" means an establishment for the breeding and/or boarding of cats.
- "Dangerous dog" means any individual dog.
- that has killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property;
- that has bitten or injured a human being or domestic animal without provocation, on public or private property;
- that is attack trained;
- that is kept for the purpose of security or protection, whether residential, commercial or industrial, of persons or property;
- that has shown the disposition or tendency to be threatening or aggressive.
- "Dog" means a male or female domesticated dog.
- "Inspector" means a person designated by the municipality to be responsible for enforcing this bylaw.
- "Kennel" means an establishment for the breeding and/or boarding of dogs.
- "Microchip" means an encoded electronic device implanted in an animal by or under the supervision of a veterinarian, which contains a unique code that provides owner information that is stored in a central database.
- "Muzzle" means a humane fastening or covering device of adequate strength over the mouth of an animal to prevent it from biting.
- "Owner" means any person, partnership, association or corporation that owns, possesses or has control, care or custody over an animal.
- "Running at Large" means an animal that is not on the property of the owner and not on a leash and/or under the control of a person responsible.
2. Provision of Needs
Every person who keeps an animal within the municipality shall provide the animal or cause it to be provided with:
- Clean, fresh drinking water available and suitable food of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal, healthy growth and the maintenance of normal, healthy body weight.
- Food and water receptacles kept clean and disinfected and located so as to avoid contamination by excreta.
- The opportunity for periodic exercise sufficient to maintain good health, including the opportunity to be unfettered from a fixed area and exercised regularly under appropriate control.
- Necessary veterinary medical care when the animal exhibits signs of pain, illness or suffering.
Every person who keeps an animal which normally resides outside, or which is kept outside unsupervised for extended periods of time, shall ensure the animal is provided with an enclosure that meets the following criteria:
- A total area that is at least twice the length of the animal in all directions.
- Contains a house or shelter that will provide protection from heat, cold and wet that is appropriate to the animal’s weight and type of coat. Such shelter must provide sufficient space to allow the animal the ability to turn around freely and lie in a normal position.
- In an area providing sufficient shade to protect the animal from the direct rays of the sun at all times.
- Pens and run areas must be regularly cleaned and sanitized and excreta removed and properly disposed of daily.
- No person may cause an animal to be hitched, tied or fastened to a fixed object where a choke collar or choke chain forms part of the securing apparatus, or where a rope or cord is tied directly around the animal’s neck.
- No person may cause an animal to be hitched, tied or fastened to a fixed object as the primary means of confinement for an extended period of time.
- No person may cause an animal to be confined in an enclosed space, including a car, without adequate ventilation.
- No person may transport an animal in a vehicle outside the passenger compartment unless it is adequately confined or unless it is secured in a body harness or other manner of fastening which is adequate to prevent it from falling off the vehicle or otherwise injuring itself.
3. Unsanitary Conditions Prohibited
No person shall keep an animal in an unsanitary condition within the municipality. Conditions shall be considered unsanitary where the keeping of the animal results in an accumulation of fecal matter, odour, insect infestation or rodent attractants which endanger the health of the animal or any person, or which disturb or are likely to disturb the enjoyment, comfort or convenience of any person in or about any dwelling, office, hospital or commercial establishment.
4. Dogs and Cats
A. Owners’ Responsibilities
- If a dog or cat defecates on any public or private property other than the property of its owner, the owner shall cause such feces to be removed immediately.
- No owner shall suffer, permit, allow or for any reason have his or her animal, bark, howl or meow excessively or in any other manner disturb the quiet of any person.
No owner of a dog shall permit his or her dog to, without provocation:
- Chase, bite or attack any person.
- Chase, bite or attack any domestic animal.
- Damage public or private property.
The running at large of dogs or cats is prohibited within the municipality, except for dogs in designated off-leash areas.
- The owner of any dog or cat aged four months or more shall obtain a licence for the animal by registering the dog or cat with the municipality and paying a fee as determined by the municipality.
- The owner shall renew the licence annually with the municipality.
- When the dog or cat is off the property of the owner the owner shall cause the animal to wear around the neck a collar to which shall be attached the current licence tag issued for that dog or cat by the municipality.
- The licence fee for a dog or cat owned by a citizen over 65 years of age shall be reduced by 50%.
- The licence fee for any dog or cat that is being registered with the municipality between July 1 and December 31 in any year shall be 50% of the fee set out in Appendix A.
- A dog used as a guide or for assistance to a disabled person shall be licenced and shall wear the current licence tag. Any person who produces evidence satisfactory to the municipality showing that the dog is required as a guide or for assistance by a disabled person shall be exempt from paying the licence fee.
- The municipality shall keep a record of all dogs and cats registered and licenced, showing the date and number of registration and licence, and the name and description of the dog or cat, with the name and address of the owner.
The inspector may seize and impound:
- Every dog or cat found at large.
- Every dog or cat not wearing a collar and tag while off the premises of the owner and not accompanied by a responsible person.
The inspector, poundkeeper or police constable shall make all reasonable efforts to identify and contact the owner of every stray animal received, whether the animal is living or dead.
- Every dog or cat impounded shall be provided with clean food and water and sheltered in sanitary conditions. The animal shall remain impounded for five days or for the length of time prescribed by provincial pound legislation, unless the animal is claimed by its rightful owners. If not claimed within that time, the animal shall become the property of the city.
- Where in the opinion of the poundkeeper, in consultation with a veterinarian, a dog or cat seized and impounded is injured or ill and should be destroyed without delay for humane reasons or for reasons of safety to persons, the dog or cat may be euthanized humanely if reasonable efforts to locate the owner of the animal have failed.
- Where a dog or cat seized and impounded is injured or ill and is treated by a veterinarian, the municipality shall, in addition to any impoundment fees, be entitled to charge the person claiming the animal for the cost of the treatment.
During the impoundment period, the owner may claim the dog or cat upon proof of ownership of the animal, and payment to the municipality of:
- The appropriate fine where applicable as outlined in Appendix A.
- The appropriate licence fee where the dog is not licenced.
- Maintenance fees as identified in Appendix A.
- Veterinary fees where applicable.
Where the owner of a dog or cat does not claim the animal he shall, when known to the poundkeeper, pay a pound fee as outlined in Appendix A and maintenance fees for each day the animal is in custody.
A dog or cat that is impounded and not claimed by the owner within the time provided in subsection (3) may be adopted for such price as has been established; or be euthanized by lethal injection of a barbiturate in accordance with the "Food and Drug Act".
5. Dangerous Dogs
The owner of a dangerous dog shall ensure that:
- Such dog is licenced with the municipality as a dangerous dog in accordance with the fees outlined in Appendix A.
- Such dog is spayed or neutered.
- They comply with the owners’ responsibilities as outlined in Section 4A.
- At all times, when off the owner’s property, the dog shall be muzzled,
- At all times when off the owner’s property, the dog shall be on a leash not longer than one metre and under the control of a responsible person over the age of eighteen.
- When such a dog is on the property of the owner, it shall be either securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure, suitable to prevent the escape of the dangerous dog and capable of preventing the entry of any person not in control of the dog. Such pen or structure must have minimum dimensions of two metres by four metres and must have secure sides and a secure top. If it has no bottom secured to the sides, the sides must be embedded into the ground no less than thirty centimetres deep. The enclosure must also provide protection from the elements for the dog. The pen or structure shall not be within one metre of the property line or within three metres of a neighbouring dwelling unit. Such dog may not be chained as a means of confinement.
- A sign is displayed at each entrance to the property and building in which the dog is kept warning, in writing, as well as with a symbol, that there is a dangerous dog on the property. This sign shall be visible and legible from the nearest road or thoroughfare.
- A policy of liability insurance, satisfactory to the municipality, is in force in the amount of at least five hundred thousand dollars, covering the twelve-month period during which licencing is sought, for injuries caused by the owner’s dangerous dog. This policy shall contain a provision requiring the community to be named as an additional insured for the sole purpose of the community to be notified by the insurance company of any cancellation, termination or expiration of the policy.
- The municipality shall have the authority to make whatever inquiry is deemed necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions outlined in this section.
- If the owner of a dog that has been designated as dangerous is unwilling or unable to comply with the requirements of this section, said dog shall then be humanely euthanized by an animal shelter, animal control agency or licenced veterinarian, after a 14-day holding period. Any dog that has been designated as dangerous under this bylaw may not be offered for adoption.
6. Kennels or Catteries
- Every person who owns or operates a kennel or cattery shall, upon application and payment of a licence fee as set out in Appendix A and upon the approval of the municipality, obtain, no later than the date established by the municipality in each year, a licence to operate such kennel or cattery.
- Every kennel or cattery licence shall be for one year.
- Every person who owns or operates a kennel shall comply with the requirements set out in A Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, updated April 2018).
- Every person who owns or operates a kennel or cattery shall comply with the bylaws of the municipality.
- Where an owner or operator of a kennel or cattery fails to comply with a bylaw of the municipality, the licence may be suspended or revoked.
- Every person who owns or operates a kennel or cattery shall permit an inspector to enter and inspect the kennel or cattery at all reasonable times, upon production of proper identification, for the purpose of determining compliance with this bylaw.
- An inspector may enter and inspect the kennel or cattery under authority of a search warrant.
- Where an inspector finds that the owner or operator of a kennel or cattery does not comply with any regulation in this section, he may direct that the animals be seized and impounded by the poundkeeper.
No person shall use, set or maintain a leghold trap, a killing trap or a snare in a suburban area.
8. Other Animals as Pets
For discussion regarding ownership of animals other than cats and dogs as pets, please refer to Appendix B.
- Any person who contravenes any provision of this bylaw is guilty of an offence and liable to the penalties prescribed in this section.
- Each day of violation of any provision of this bylaw shall constitute a separate offence.
- The levying and payment of any fines shall not relieve a person from the necessity of paying any fees, charges or costs from which he or she is liable under the provision of this bylaw.
- Provincial Court Judge, in addition to the penalties provided in this bylaw, may, if he considers the offence sufficiently serious, direct or order the owner of a dog or cat to prevent such dog or cat from doing mischief or causing the disturbance or nuisance complained of, or have the animal removed from the city, or orderthe animal destroyed.
- Where any person contravenes the same provision of this bylaw twice within one twelve month period, the specified penalty payable in respect of the second contravention is double the amount specified in section 9(7) of this bylaw in respect of that provision.
- Where any person contravenes the same provision of this bylaw three or more times within one twelve month period, the specified penalty payable in respect of the third or subsequent contravention is triple the amount specified in section 9(7) of this bylaw in respect of that provision.
- The suggested minimum penalties for violating sections of this bylaw are as follows:
|2 and 3||$50|
|4A (1) (2) (4)||$25|
Appendix A Suggested fees
- Dog or cat licence (male or female) $50
- Dog or cat licence for neutered male or spayed female $15
- Dog or cat licence for neutered male or spayed female that is implanted with a microchip or tattooed $5
- Dangerous dog licence $250
- Kennel or cattery licence $100
First impoundment in any calendar year:
Neutered male or spayed female dog or cat: $25
Non-neutered or unspayed dog or cat: $50
Dangerous dog: $250
Second impoundment in any calendar year:
Neutered male or spayed female dog or cat: $50
Non-neutered or unspayed dog or cat: $100
Dangerous dog: $500
Third and subsequent impoundments in any calendar year:
Neutered male or spayed female dog or cat: $75
Non-neutered or unspayed dog or cat: $150
Dangerous dog: $1,000 or euthanasia
This package on municipal bylaws is intended to help Canadian municipalities implement effective bylaws regulating companion animals in their jurisdictions. It is also hoped that this project will bring some uniformity to bylaws across the country.
We have domesticated and kept animals as companions for hundreds of years. Pets have become part of many families. These animals not only provide companionship but may also provide significant health benefits to their owners. Unfortunately, not all these pet owners understand or accept the lifetime responsibilities that a pet requires. All pet owners should have their animals permanently identified, spayed or neutered, kept under control, properly trained, socialized and cared for.
Some pet owners are unaware or neglectful of their responsibilities to their pets or allow their pets to annoy their neighbours or harass wild animals that share the environment. This can result in dog bites, threats to people or animals, damage or contamination of property, pet overpopulation, abuse or neglect of animals and other consequences. The solution involves effective legislation and education that encourages responsible pet ownership.
Municipalities need to enact bylaws that stipulate the types of animals allowed as pets, that require humane and responsible treatment of animals to prevent them from disturbing or harming people, animals or property, and other provisions as determined by each council.
In addition to the benefits of public safety and satisfaction, practical and progressive animal control bylaws should be cost effective for the municipality. Irresponsible pet owners cost taxpayers money through pound costs, investigation of complaints, and pet overpopulation. These costs can be offset by significantly higher licence fees for pets that are not spayed or neutered, increased fines for repeat offenders and other regulations that encourage responsible pet ownership.
This package brings together expertise from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Canada™ (also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies), and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada. These groups make up the National Companion Animal Coalition, which was formed in 1996 to promote socially responsible pet ownership and enhance the health and well-being of companion animals. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is an observer member of the group. Additional input has also been obtained from key individuals involved in animal welfare and municipal animal control.
II. Dog and Cat Control
Most municipalities in Canada have had dog control bylaws for many years, requiring owners to take responsibility for their dogs. However, very few municipalities require cat owners to do the same. Historically, it has been widely accepted that cats are allowed to roam free. In recent years, however, with a significant increase in the number of cats, this policy is being questioned by more and more urban municipalities as well as by residents tired of neighbours’ cats digging and eliminating in their gardens and howling during the night.
Some people believe that cats should not be kept indoors and need to roam outside satisfying their hunting instincts. Others recognize that with adequate attention, companionship and the opportunity to play, cats can have a fulfilling life indoors. Indoor cats are generally healthier and don’t get lost, disturb neighbours, kill wildlife or spread disease, and generally don’t contribute to the growing problem of cat overpopulation that forces animal shelters to euthanize many thousands of cats every year.
Municipalities can address these problems by introducing bylaws that discourage breeding and that require cats to be licenced, permanently identified, and kept indoors unless in an enclosed area or supervised on a harness and leash. The implementation of effective municipal cat bylaws will result in reduced pound costs due to fewer cats roaming loose, increased revenue from licence fees and fines, a reduction in the cat population due to incentives to spay and neuter, and a reduction in conflicts between cats and the public. These issues have a greater significance in urban areas than in rural and farm areas where cats are often used to help control rodents.
When a cat licencing bylaw is introduced, the municipality will need to conduct a public awareness program to help cat owners understand the issues and what their responsibilities are. It is important that this be done in a positive way to encourage compliance. This can be done by highlighting the benefits to the animals themselves as well as the public at large. There are significant health and behavioural benefits to spaying or neutering cats and dogs.
One of the roles of municipal animal control bylaws is to encourage responsible pet ownership through licencing, permanent identification and spay/neuter requirements. The preferred methods of permanent identification are microchipping and tattooing. Tags should also be worn (on break-away collars for cats) as proof of ownership so that animals may be returned to their owners sooner, often by neighbours, without incurring pound costs. Municipalities should offer incentives for pet owners to comply with the bylaw by reducing licence fees and fines for cats and dogs that are spayed or neutered and permanently identified. Compliance can be encouraged by implementing stiff fines for failing to obtain and wear a licence tag.
Responsible pet owners save municipalities money by reducing the number of dogs and cats running loose, by preventing indiscriminate breeding and by keeping their pets under control. Revenue from licencing and fines can be allocated to offset pound costs and for education programs in the municipality.
Cat licencing requirements enable cat owners to contribute to the cost of animal control in the municipality, a cost that has traditionally been borne solely by dog owners. Most municipal pounds and humane societies take in many more cats than dogs, resulting in higher budget allocations for cats in their care. In addition, less than 5% of cats are claimed by their owners, compared to more than 30% for dogs (see Canadian Animal Shelter Statistics, Humane Canada™).
B. Spaying and Neutering
Pet overpopulation is a major problem. It is currently a significant factor in the euthanasia of almost 60% of cats and more than 30% of dogs in animal shelters across Canada every year (see Canadian Animal Shelter Statistics, Humane Canada™). Municipalities can be part of the solution to this problem by implementing and enforcing bylaws that encourage and reward responsible pet owners who licence, permanently identify and neuter their pets.
An important aspect of responsible pet ownership is neutering of companion animals to prevent the birth of more puppies and kittens needing homes. Municipalities can encourage pet owners to have their pets neutered by implementing preferential licence fees for altered dogs and cats. The differential should be high enough to act as an incentive for pet owners to have their pets neutered. Municipalities can also help by educating pet owners about the health and behavioural benefits of neutering their pets, as well as their social responsibility to do so.
C. Number of Dogs and Cats Permitted
Establishing an arbitrary limit on the number of dogs and cats permitted in a dwelling does not address concerns about irresponsible pet ownership, but rather, may punish responsible pet owners who are providing proper care to their companion animals. Concerns about inhumane treatment of the animals or disturbance in the neighbourhood are addressed in Section D.
However, some urban municipalities may wish to establish a limit on the number of dogs and cats permitted in one dwelling. A dwelling housing more than the maximum number would be considered a kennel or cattery and would be subject to municipal bylaws applying to such establishments (See Section VI).
D. Responsibilities of Owner
There are many responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Some of these responsibilities are for the benefit of the animal, and some are for the benefit of society. It is important that municipalities enact bylaws that both require and encourage responsible pet ownership. In a fast-paced society where decisions are made quickly and things are easily disposed of, pets often become victims of neglect. As well as costing the animals their quality of life, such neglect also costs taxpayers money in enforcement, pound costs, euthanasia, etc.
i) Being at Large
Dogs and cats should not be permitted to be at large except in designated areas, to ensure the safety of the public, the animal itself and other animals. A dog or cat being at large is one that is on property other than the property of the owner and is not on a leash and/or under the control of a person responsible.
Many dog owners seek open areas to let their pets run off leash for exercise and social stimulation with other dogs, both important aspects of responsible dog ownership. Municipalities may consider establishing a neighbourhood committee of pet owners and non-pet owners to address the issue of off-leash areas for dogs. The group, operating by consensus, should work to find the most effective solution for their neighbourhood. One possibility would be to establish areas and times of day where dogs are permitted to be off leash.
All other municipal bylaws such as stoop and scoop, licencing and dangerous dogs would apply. These areas should be well sign posted so that non-dog owners are aware that dogs will be running loose. Garbage receptacles should be provided and maintained. A growing number of urban municipalities are realizing that permitting cats to roam free inevitably results in trespassing and damage to private property. Concerns are increasing about the overpopulation of cats, predation on birds or other wildlife, contamination of property and the spread of disease. All these concerns are eliminated when cats are kept indoors or under control by a leash or enclosure.
ii) Providing Care
It is recommended that municipalities make every effort to ensure that pet owners provide their animals with care to meet their species-specific health, physical, social, and behavioural needs. This should include clean water and food, proper housing, appropriate companionship, health care and exercise.
Generally, the appropriate humane society or SPCA will have authority over cases of abuse or neglect of animals. Municipalities should liaise closely with their local or provincial society in this regard.
iii) Stoop and Scoop
Dog and cat owners should be required to clean up their pets’ feces from any public or private property.
Dog and cat owners must prevent their pets from chasing, biting, harassing or attacking a person or other animal and from damaging public or private property.
Municipalities may include a requirement that animals be transported humanely and safely. Companion animals should be transported in the passenger compartment of vehicles unless they are securely confined and adequately sheltered. Animals transported loose in the back of pick-up trucks pose a risk to public safety if they fall out, as well as severe risk of injury to the animals themselves. This practice should not be permitted.
E. Dangerous Dogs
Addressing dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs is a challenge for municipalities. It is often difficult to determine whether a dog may be dangerous until it has bitten or attacked a person or animal. Municipalities should consider adopting legislation aimed at reducing the likelihood of harmful situations occurring.
It is important for municipalities to keep in mind that dangerous dogs are generally the result of irresponsible ownership. Dogs can become a threat if they are not properly socialized and trained, if they are mistreated or if they are deliberately bred or encouraged to attack people or animals.
First, it must be established exactly what constitutes a dangerous dog. The criteria should not be breed specific as this only discriminates against certain breeds, instead of evaluating individual dogs by their behaviour. Suggested criteria for identifying dangerous dogs include:
- a dog that has killed a person or domestic animal, regardless of the circumstances
- a dog that has bitten or injured a person or domestic animal (exceptions may be made if the dog was teased, abused, assaulted or if the dog was reacting to a person trespassing on the property owned by the dog’s owner)
- a dog that has shown the disposition or tendency to be threatening or aggressive an attack trained dog
Municipalities should require that dangerous dogs either be euthanized in the interests of public safety, or that their owners meet specific requirements for the humane care of such dogs, that will ensure public safety. Penalties should be established for owners who do not comply with the requirements.
Dangerous dogs should be licenced and spayed or neutered as this may reduce aggressive tendencies and will prevent the owners from profiting from the sale of offspring that are also likely to be dangerous. These dogs should be muzzled and leashed when off the owner’s property and strictly confined when on the owner’s property. If an owner is unwilling or unable to meet these requirements, euthanasia should be imposed.
Municipalities may wish to implement a dangerous dog licence that the owner of such a dog must purchase for a significantly higher fee than a regular dog licence. Such a licence would also have rigid requirements for housing and care of the dog as stated in this section.
Dangerous dogs should be kept indoors or in a secured yard that prevents the dog from escaping over or under the fence or by any other means, and that prevents access by the public. They should not be confined only by a chain or tether.
iii) Other Requirements
Warning signs should be clearly and visibly posted on the property where a dangerous dog is kept. Municipalities may also require that owners of dangerous dogs carry additional liability insurance that would cover any damage or harm caused by the dog.
Dog owners whose animals violate the requirements of the dangerous dog bylaw should receive harsh fines due to the threat of public safety. Fines should be increased for repeat offences. Euthanasia may be imposed, based on the severity and frequency of the infractions.
v) Dog Fighting
Under no circumstances can dog fighting or the training or keeping of dogs for fighting be permitted. This is an inhumane and illegal activity.
III. Unsanitary Conditions
For the sake of public health, comfort or enjoyment of any people and for the animals’ well-being, no animal should be kept in unsanitary conditions. This would include an accumulation of feces, odour, insect or rodent infestation.
IV. Other Animals as Pets
Some people select other animals as pets. These animals have specific needs (behavioural, environmental, social and nutritional) that must be met. Responsible pet ownership practices are no less important for these species.
All the following criteria should be taken into account when considering other animals as pets:
a. Species ownership is supported by the existence of published information pertinent to its proper animal husbandry and
veterinary care requirements
b. Species ownership does not pose a significant threat to public health and safety
c. The species in question does not represent a significant threat to native (indigenous) wildlife populations
d. Species ownership is permitted under provincial, federal or international laws and regulations, such as the following:
Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Canada is a signatory party.
Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA)
Federal statute administered by Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
At the provincial level, pertinent regulations usually fall under the Ministry of Agriculture and/or Ministry of Natural Resources (Fish and Game Department).
NOTE: Information on all these regulations can be obtained from the local provincial conservation officer or game warden.
Municipalities may encounter problems with repeat offenders, where the fine is not sufficient to prevent the problem from recurring. Attempts should be made to educate the individual regarding the reasons for the bylaw and encouraging them to comply. In cases where this is ineffective, it is recommended that fines be levied on a graduated scale, based on repeat offences.
Higher fines should also be imposed for violations involving cats or dogs that are not spayed or neutered. This surcharge could be reimbursed if the animal is spayed or neutered within a two-month period following the violation.
VI. Kennels, Pet Stores and Animal Shelters
Municipalities are encouraged to implement specific requirements for the care and housing of animals in establishments such as kennels, catteries, pet stores, animal shelters and other animal establishments. Conditions in such establishments should at least meet the requirements in Section II D (ii) and Section III in this document. For more information, contact the appropriate member of the Coalition. Municipalities may have zoning bylaws regulating where such establishments may be located.
Municipalities are encouraged to prohibit the use of leghold traps, killing traps and snares in suburban areas.
In towns and cities across Canada, the main regulatory concern is related to the licensing and control of companion animals – mostly dogs and cats. Municipal bylaws can vary widely from one community to the next. Humane Canada™ has collaborated in producing guidelines for "enlightened" municipal bylaws, and in developing sample or model bylaws for the licensing and control of companion animals.
Recently, some cities across Canada have expanded their approach to animal control by considering options to regulate the acquisition of pets. Recognizing that the stray and abandoned pet problem is often perpetuated by the purchase of unsterilized, and sometimes unhealthy or aggressive animals, several municipalities have considered or are considering restrictions on the retail sale of animals. Some have discussed banning pet store sales of animals that haven’t been spayed or neutered; others want to ban retail trade of certain animals altogether. When purchasing an animal at a pet store, buyers have no way of seeing where the animal came from and under what conditions it was bred and raised. Many dogs and kittens sold at pet stores come from puppy or kitten mills.
If your town or city does not have an enlightened animal control bylaw, please share the resources on this website with your municipal council and urge them to strengthen their regulations accordingly.
Learn more about municipal animal control issues such as licensing and identification of pets, spay/neuter promotion, anti-roaming regulations and kennel licensing.
See the model animal control bylaw provisions developed by CFHS as part of the National Companion Animal Coalition.
Learn more about municipal restrictions on selling pets in stores.
To find out what bylaws exist in your community, you can contact your municipal councillor or your local SPCA or humane society.
All of the provinces and territories have animal protection laws. They vary widely in terms of which animal welfare issues are covered and the level of protection provided. The degree to which the laws are enforced, and who is responsible for enforcement of the laws, also varies significantly from one jurisdiction to the next.
There is some overlap between these provincial or territorial laws and the animal cruelty section of Canada’s Criminal Code, in that some of the offenses deemed illegal in provincial and territorial laws are also listed as criminal in the Criminal Code. In cases of animal abuse, enforcement officials may choose to lay charges under the provincial or territorial law, the Criminal Code, or both.
In general, provincial laws usually have broader, stronger protections for animals than the Criminal Code and include specific standards of care that animal owners must adhere to (which the Criminal Code does not). Because of this, enforcement officials in provinces that have broad, comprehensive animal welfare legislation tend to lay charges under the provincial law more frequently than under the Criminal Code.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act
Animal Care Act
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Act
The Dog Act
Prince Edward Island
Animal Health Act
Animal Protection Act (link to updated legislation coming soon!)
To find out more about enforcement of the various laws above, contact the provincial or local SPCA or humane society for the jurisdiction in question.
Humane Canada™, also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, advocates for the review, updating and strengthening of the current animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada.
In October 2018, using Humane Canada's recommended language, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-84, which would broaden and strengthen Canada's bestiality and animal fighting laws. The law is moving swiftly so far and is currently at second reading in the Senate.
In December 2015 Humane Canada helped to introduce Bill S203 an Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins) alongside Sen. Wilfred P. Moore. The law is moving quickly and is now at Third Reading in the House of Commons.
In April 2017 Senator Michael L. MacDonald introduced Bill S-238 An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (importation and exportation of shark fins). Unfortunately Bill S-203 may have the distinction of being one of the slowest moving Bills in the history of Parliment but it is now at its Third Reading in the House of Commons, the last step.
In December 2015 with the support of Humane Canada Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen introduced Bill S-214 An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (cruelty-free cosmetics). It moved through the Senate and is now at First Reading in the House of Commons.
Humane Canada™ promotes the enactment of federal, provincial and municipal legislation that protects animals from cruelty and provides a legal framework to ensure animals are treated humanely and with respect.
Canada is widely considered to be a progressive, civilized country with plenty of laws on the books to protect its citizens from various forms of violence, disorderly conduct and theft, but we have a dismal record when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect.
While countries all over the world have updated or enacted effective animal cruelty legislation, Canada has not made substantial changes to the federal animal cruelty laws that were first introduced in 1892.
Humane Canada™ has been calling on the government to amend the animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada for more than 25 years. In 1999, the government launched a consultation process to gather input on what changes were needed to the animal cruelty provisions, which were originally enacted in…