Area of Law: Animals and the Law
Answer # 4043
Agricultural animals / farm animals / livestockRegion: Ontario Answer # 4043
What are agricultural animals, farm animals, and livestock?
Agricultural animals and farm animals are terms used to describe domesticated animals kept or raised on farms, which are primarily kept to produce goods for human consumption. In some instances, the term livestock is used as an alternative to agricultural/farm animals.
Farm or agricultural animals generally consist of livestock and poultry, although some non-traditional farm animals, such as foxes, minks, and deer are considered farm animals when they are raised for commercial purposes.
Some common examples of livestock include, but are not limited to:
Poultry includes birds which are typically raised for their feathers, meat, and/or eggs, although the owner does not have to be raising them for those purposes. Examples of poultry include:
- waterfowl including ducks and geese
The laws regarding the care and protection of agricultural animals, farm animals, and livestock can be found in provincial, federal, and municipal legislation.
Under Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act the standard of care for animals requires that they be provided with adequate food, water, medical attention, and shelter, and prohibits causing or permitting distress. The Act applies to all animals – pets and agricultural animals, farm animals, and livestock. However, PAWS provides an exception to the general standard of care requirements in the case of agricultural activities, providing reasonable and generally accepted practices of agricultural animal “care, management, or husbandry”.
Animal care generally means practices that are aimed at the survival of the animals, such as facilities, nutrition, and animal health. The National Farm Animal Care Council (see below) uses the term “husbandry” to refer to practices done to the animal that are necessary for breeding and cultivating the specific animal product, such as handling cattle and managing breeding.
Other provincial legislation specific to agricultural animals, farm animals, or livestock includes the following:
- The Ontario Livestock Community Sales Act and Regulation applies to farm animals during sale, and refers to humane euthanization practices.
- The Food Safety & Quality Act and Regulations regulates the quality and safety of animal products for consumption or use.
- The Milk and Milk Products Regulation under the Milk Act requires producers of cow’s milk ensure that the cattle are clean and comfortable, and their hooves are in good condition and that they be provided with adequate nutrition and water to maintain their health.
Criminal Code of Canada
Most of the prohibited acts to animals and cruelty to animals provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada are applicable to agricultural animals, livestock, and farm animals.
For example, if found guilty of an offence of wilfully causing or permitting animals to suffer pain or injury, an individual faces a maximum imprisonment of 5 years or a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months. Additionally, an owner or custodian of an animal or animals who fails to provide suitable or adequate care faces imprisonment for up to 2 years or a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months.
Health of Animals Regulations – Transportation
The Health of Animals Regulations Part XII prohibits loading animals for transportation which cannot be accomplished without causing undue suffering. Infringement is an offence punishable by summary conviction and fine of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months, or an indictable offence and fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years.
Safe Food for Canadians Regulations
Division 7 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations sets out requirements for the humane treatment of farm animals for slaughter. Some of these requirements include being provided with adequate space, ventilation, food, and water, and not be subject to avoidable suffering, injury, or death or conditions that cause avoidable suffering, injury, or death. View Slaughterhouses for more information.
Many municipalities prohibit raising or keeping livestock in city limits. Therefore, it is important to check local bylaws and regulations to see what species are allowed, in what numbers, and specific requirements regarding shelters, property lines, and licensing. For example:
In Toronto, typical livestock animals such as cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, goats, and sheep are prohibited animals that cannot be kept in city limits. There are however exceptions made to specific premises such as the Toronto Zoo, Black Creek Pioneer Village and Riverdale Farm, and licensed slaughterhouses allowing them to keep livestock on their grounds. The fine for having a prohibited animal without meeting one of these exceptions is $240.
While most exceptions are provided to businesses and other organizations, there is an exception for residents in certain areas to participate in the Hens Pilot Program allowing for the ownership of chickens and roosters in the city. This program is restricted in terms of location and compliance with specific registration and participation requirements. As a participant, you are also responsible for the health and welfare of the hens in your care. Failing to provide hens with humane care may be deemed an act of cruelty which could result in fines and/or charges. Currently, this Program is scheduled to end on March 31, 2023.
In Kingston, there are similar prohibitions on livestock and poultry, limiting their possession to agricultural property, property of at least 5 acres, property that is used for municipal purposes, veterinary hospitals and clinics, or temporary events such as agricultural fairs. Like Toronto, Kingston provides for the keeping of hens on residential property where an individual has a valid licence and meets the requirements on number and age of hens that can be kept, location of coop, and the slaughter of chickens and sale of eggs.
National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC)
The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) is the organization which develops guidelines and establishes requirements for the minimum standards of care and welfare of farm animals in Canada. The codes of practice range from general guidelines that apply to all farm animals, such as the Transportation Code, to more specific codes aimed at specific species such as dairy / beef cattle, pigs, poultry, etc.
Various professionals and experts are involved in developing the animal care requirements and recommended practices including:
- animal welfare and enforcement agencies,
- retail and food service organizations,
- governments, and
While not legally binding, the NFACC guidelines may be enforceable by industry associations or under federal and provincial legislation and regulation.
For more information, contact your local government or view your provincial laws in our Links.
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