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Domestic animal legislation in Quebec

We often hear about the lack of resources for animals in Quebec. While it is true that Quebec is far behind other countries such as France, for example, there are still a few regulations in place to help improve their condition. In this text, we will try to unravel the legislation in place for domestic animals. It is important to know that there are also regulations for food-producing and laboratory animals, but we will not discuss them here.

Federal law

At the federal level, there is a provision in the Criminal Code that states that “the Criminal Code of Canada prohibits anyone from willfully causing animals to suffer from neglect, pain or injury.” However, while it is illegal to cause pain to an animal, it is up to the Canadian government authorities to interpret this very vague regulation.


Furthermore, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for regulating the humane transport of animals. While this applies primarily to animals intended for consumption, the new trend of importing specific breeds of dogs and cats falls under the jurisdiction of the CFIA. Some of you may remember the French bulldog puppies that arrived in terrible condition or even died at Pearson Airport in Toronto in June 2020. The CFIA is in charge of this file.


On the provincial side, we had a major breakthrough in 2015 with the adoption of the Animal Welfare and Safety Act in which animals were given the legal status of "sentient beings with biological needs" whereas they were previously considered the same as a piece of furniture under the law. Finally, a law intended only for their protection and their well-being! But it remains to be applied now.


This law is under the responsibility of the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ). It is also under this same department that shelters are regulated. In fact, according to the Animal Health Protection Act, the MAPAQ is responsible for establishing standards concerning sanitary measures. Therefore, if you witness a shelter or even a pet store or pound leaving their animals in miserable conditions, they are the ones you should contact.

In addition, every organization or breeder who keeps more than 15 animals (cats and dogs only) must apply for a license from MAPAQ. This can then be used to clamp down on individuals who own too many animals for breeding or are unable to care for them properly. It was finally in 2014 that the provincial government set up a hotline for citizens to report animal welfare violators at 1-844-ANIMAUX.


The last level that can act legally on animals is the municipal level. It would obviously take too long to write about all the different municipal by-laws in Quebec, so we will focus only on those in Montreal. However, we encourage you to do your own research on the regulations in force in your municipality. In terms of animal welfare, the City refers primarily to the provincial government and the Investigation Division of the Montreal SPCA whose officers are responsible for enforcing the laws described above at the federal and provincial levels.

On the municipal side, the by-laws are mainly aimed at making owners more responsible by requiring, for example, microchipping and sterilization of cats and dogs on their territory. There are also several notes on keeping dogs on a leash or disposing of excrement in a sanitary manner. We can therefore conclude that the City is focusing more on maintaining cohabitation between animals and citizens.


In summary, Canada and Quebec are far from perfect in the application of their laws concerning animal welfare. Indeed, we notice that exotic animals such as domestic birds, rodents, rabbits or reptiles do not benefit from the same protection as cats and dogs. Furthermore, it is still common to see offenders receive ridiculous fines. It is therefore thanks to concerned people, involved politicians and organizations like Mission Mayday that the voice of all animals continues to resonate in our society.

If you witness an animal being neglected:

  • Contact the SPCA or the organization in your region

  • Dial 1-844-ANIMAUX



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