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Breeding and selling animals

Region: Ontario Answer # 4045

What is an animal breeder?

An animal breeder is someone who breeds animals with carefully selected mates, normally of the same breed, to produce babies with specific qualities and characteristics. These animals may then be sold as pets, or for show or sport, or even for agricultural purposes. They may breed a specific type of animal, such as dogs, cats, horses, chickens or cattle, or may specialize in specific breeds of animals, such as French Bulldogs. Responsible and legitimate breeders provide a high standard of care for their animals. They will ensure that their animals are purebreds (if that is the type of animal an owner is looking for), and meet the standards and guidelines of the breed or breeding club.

Backyard breeders

The term ‘backyard breeder’ is sometimes used to describe breeders (usually of dogs) who intentionally or negligently breed animals with no knowledge or experience, and who provide substandard conditions of care.

Puppy and kitten mills

Puppy and kitten mills are facilities that breed animals for profit. Because the goal is to sell as many animals as possible, these commercial breeding facilities often have too many animals to enable a standard of care to be met. Conditions may include small cages, poor sanitary conditions, forced breeding, and animals separated from their mothers at too young an age. The animals found at these facilities are usually unwell and unsocialized.

Animals bred through these methods are often sold to pets stores, or online retailers.

What to ask if buying a pet from a breeder

If you wish to buy a purebred animal such as a puppy, a breeder is usually the best option. However, check with a national breeding club, such as the Canadian Kennel Club of Canada, to find a reputable breeder. When looking to buy an animal from a breeder, ask questions, such as:

  • Can they provide veterinary records that show the animal has been vaccinated and received other care?
  • Can they provide references from others who have bought animals from them?
  • Does the animal have breed registration papers for it and its parents?
  • Can they provide the health and behaviour history of the breed?
  • Can the animal be returned if you can no longer keep it for some reason?

Are animal breeders regulated?

In Canada, legislation specifically regulate the breeding and selling of animals. In most cases, the issue is dealt with in animal welfare and animal cruelty legislation. However, provincial laws and municipal bylaws often require operators to acquire permits for breeding animals for sale or for operating kennels. These laws usually address the number of animals that may be kept at a time.

Federal laws

Criminal Code of Canada

The federal Criminal Code of Canada prohibits causing or permitting unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal, with a maximum imprisonment of 5 years or fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months. It is also an offence for an owner or custodian of an animal to fail to provide suitable and adequate care, subject to imprisonment for up to 2 years or a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months.

While an animal is in the care of a breeder and prior to its sale, the animal’s breeder and/or custodian prior to sale could be held responsible under the CCC.

The Health of Animals Act

The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible under the Health of Animals Act for regulating animal and human health in Canada. Those who are engaged in importing, exporting, and selling animals must comply with the requirements in the Act and its Regulations. Specifically, the transportation and handling of animals, including those being sold and/or for the purpose of breeding, must follow certain standards laid out in the Regulations. A violation of any of the provisions may result in the offender being found:

  • guilty of a summary offence and liable to a fine of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months, or
  • guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

The CFIA also has the authority to set requirements for importation. As of May 2021, the CFIA introduced additional requirements for the importation of dogs for commercial purposes, including breeding and/or resale. In the case of dogs over 8 months, importers will need to provide documentation of proper vaccination and health records, while importers of dogs under 8 months are required to obtain a commercial import permit from the CFIA and conform to several other requirements including vaccinations, quarantine, and inspection.

Animal Pedigree Act

The Animal Pedigree Act (APA) governs the registration of purebred animals. Associations incorporated under the APA are approved for the purpose of improving and promoting the breeds they oversee and further the common interests of breeders, by keeping a breed registry which includes the registration of animals, storing pedigree information, and issuing certificates or proof of pedigree.

It is not mandatory for breed associations to incorporate or register their animals under the APA. However, when an association is incorporated under the Act, the association and its members are bound by it. It is an offence to present or issue a certificate of identification or registration, falsify or alter certificates of registration or identification or sell or offer for sale an animal which is not registered or registrable under the provisions of the Act but is portrayed or likely to be perceived as being registered or registrable under the Act. Violation of these provisions is punishable by fine up to $50,000.

Canadian Kennel Club of Canada

The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) is an association incorporated and authorized by the APA to operate as a registry for purebred dogs. The CKC has the authority under the APA to determine terms for membership eligibility and to discipline members who contravene their rules. The CKC established by-laws, Code of Ethics, Codes of Practice, and Policies and Procedures under which members must comply when breeding, buying, or selling dogs.

The CKC requirements apply and are enforceable only against those who are eligible and established members, although there are provisions under the APA which would apply to those who falsely portray themselves or their dogs to be eligible or members of the CKC.

There are a several other APA incorporated associations available at Agriculture.Canada.ca.

Provincial laws

Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act

Although the breeding and selling of animals is not specifically regulated under Ontario legislation, operators must comply with the general standards of care as owners and/or custodians of animals provided under Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act and its Regulations. For example, PAWS requires breeders and sellers of animals provide animals in their care with adequate food, water, medical attention, and shelter, and prohibits causing or permitting distress. For agricultural animals, a defence to causing or permitting distress where breeding or selling activities follow reasonable and generally accepted practices is available.

Violating these provisions is punishable by:

  • a fine of up to $260,000 and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years for individuals, or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000,000 in the case of corporations.

Dog Owners’ Liability Act

The breeding and/or sale of pit bulls in the province of Ontario is prohibited under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. Anyone who contravenes the Act and/or Regulations commits an offence and if convicted is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months in the case of individuals, or a fine of up to $60,000 for corporations.

Ontario is the only province which bans the breeding and/or selling of pit bulls, however many municipalities contain their own restrictions or prohibitions on specific breeds.

Municipal by-laws

Municipal by-laws also exist dealing with the breeding, care and sale of animals.

Under the Toronto Animal By-Law, having control of more than three dogs or more than six cats without a commercial permit is punishable by fine of $240. There are also prohibited animals set out in the by-law which cannot be kept in city limits and therefore cannot be sold or bred. The Licensing By-Law requires that those operating a pet shop, premises where animals and/or birds for use as pets are sold and/or kept for sale, obtain a licence. Failing to obtain a licence punishable by fine of up to $25,000 for individuals or $50,000 for corporations.

Pet shops: The Toronto licensing provisions for pet shops also set requirements for standards of care, prohibiting the selling or offering for sale of any mammal before it has reached normal weaning age, and limiting the source of animals for those selling more than 10 dogs per year to humane societies, animal shelters, registered humane societies, surrenders, or rescue groups. For licensing purposes, pet shops are also required to obtain zoning approval. Subject to the Zoning By-Law, the breeding and selling of animals is prohibited on residential property.

Orangeville’s Pet Shop By-Law requires any establishment where more than 3 animals are kept to be sold as pets at any point during the year get a pet shop licence. Certain animals, such as cattle, goats, horses, etc., are prohibited from being kept in a pet shop as well as animals not sourced through municipal animal shelters, a registered humane society, registered shelter, or recognized animal rescue group. The By-Law also prohibits selling or offering for sale animals under 8 weeks of age, and requires certain standards of care, cleanliness, and space be met. Contravening these provisions is an offence punishable by fine of up to $50,000. The Animal Control By-Law also sets out general requirements for standards of care and limits the number of dogs that can be kept in a dwelling unit to 3.

In Barrie, the Animal Control By-Law limits the keeping in any residential, commercial, or industrial building without a kennel or pet store licence to 3 dogs over the age of 6 months or 6 cats over 6 months, subject to fine of up to $5,000 for a first offence. The licensing requirements for a pet shop and kennel are set out in the Business Licensing By-Law, and along with standards for care and handling of animals. Kennels are only those registered with the CKC.

Codes of Practice

There are other codes of practice relevant to the care and handling of animals which may also be used as acceptable practices for breeding and selling operations. While codes of practice may be referred to under legislation, they are not necessarily legally binding.

National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC)

The NFACC is a national organization which develops guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals, providing specific codes for farm animals including, dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and more. The species-specific codes include guidelines for breeding and transportation relevant to those in the business of selling animals.

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)

Like the NFACC, the CVMA publishes codes covering accepted practices for the care, management, and breeding of different animals. Breeders are not required to comply with the codes of practice, unless explicitly incorporated into animal welfare or control legislation.

The Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations and the Code of Practice for Canadian Cattery Operations set out guidelines for approved standards of care and practices in the operation of breeding and pet store establishments that are helpful for breeders, sellers, and purchasers of animals.

More info

For more information on provincial and federal laws regarding the breeding and sale of animals, and animal care and ownership, view other sections of Animal Law, or contact your provincial or municipal government.


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