Animal Protection Laws


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Municipal, Provincial and Federal Legislation

Municipal bylaws pertaining to animals in counties, towns and cities across the country vary widely. Most bylaws are related to licensing and control of companion animals, however not all municipalities have animal bylaws.

Federal and provincial laws offer protection for animals by prescribing minimum standards of care. Animal owners who fail to meet those standards can be charged with an offence, and if found guilty, can be subject to penalties. 

The Animal Protection Act in Alberta is provincial legislation that protects animals in distress due to neglect or abuse by their owners or caretakers. 

  • Peace Officers from the Alberta SPCA, the Calgary Humane Society and the Edmonton Animal Care and Control are appointed by the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General to enforce the Animal Protection Act. 
  • Penalties under the Act include prohibition from owning an animal and/or fines of up to $20,000.

Three main pieces of federal legislation provide humane protection for all animals in Canada. 

The Criminal Code of Canada is federal legislation. 

  • Cases covered by the Criminal Code of Canada are usually investigated by local police or the RCMP, often in consultation with the appropriate SPCA or Humane Society. 
  • The maximum penalty that the courts can impose is five years in jail for an indictable offence or $10,000 and/or 18 months in jail for a summary conviction. An indictable offence is more serious than a summary conviction.

The Health of Animals Act is also federal legislation and provides for the humane transportation of all animals in Canada by all modes of transport. It identifies:

  • Conditions for loading and unloading, feeding and watering
  • Length of time in transit
  • Rest periods
  • Bedding 
  • Medical care for animals that become at risk during transit

The Meat Inspection Act is federal legislation that sets standards for the humane handling and slaughter of food animals. This Act applies to livestock and does not apply to companion animals.

The table that follows illustrates the main scope of these federal Acts and how police officers, SPCA Peace Officers and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspectors enforce them.

Federal Legislation Table with type of act, enforcement and scope of coverage columns.
Click here to open full-sized accessible version. Also see AFAC’s webpage on Laws and Regulations.

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