Requirements for Accreditation

One of Humane Canada’s goals is to build a strong, professional industry through minimum standards and accreditation in the animal welfare sector. By granting the seal of accreditation to humane societies and SPCAs we will:

What is the value of accreditation? Watch this video to learn more

The Quality Descriptors:

The standard is also based on eight quality descriptors that, when taken as whole, describe the values and characteristics exhibited by all high-quality Humane Societies or SPCAs.

  1. Accountable: Acknowledging and assuming responsibility
  2. Best practice: Following evidence-based policies and procedures
  3. Community oriented: Supporting animal welfare needs in the community
  4. Effective: Using the best approach to achieve a desired result
  5. Humane: Meeting the needs of animals and people
  6. Leadership: Setting direction to do the right thing
  7. Progressive: Evolving strategies to anticipate and meet changing needs
  8. Transparent: Providing open disclosure of practices and outcomes

Becoming accredited under this accreditation standard offers Humane Societies and SPCAs a mechanism to publicly demonstrate how they incorporate the Five Freedoms and the quality descriptors into their design and operations.

Everything you need to know about becoming accredited:

What is accreditation?

“A formal third-party assessment and verification of the attributes, characteristics, quality, qualification or status of individuals or organizations, good or services, procedures or processes, or events or situations, in accordance with established internationally or nationally prescribed requirements or standards.” Standards County of Canada, 2017.

It is important to note that accreditation is not an audit or inspection. It is instead, a commitment to continuous quality improvement.

Why should my organization become accredited?

Humane Canada’s new accreditation program allows humane societies and SPCAs to demonstrate to the world that they offer safe, ethical, and high-quality services and that they put animal welfare first and foremost.

Standards and accreditation is a way of promoting confidence and signaling to donors which organizations have achieved best practice and are trustworthy.

Accredited organizations proudly display the Humane Canada accreditation seal as a tangible demonstration that they have gone through a rigorous and comprehensive process to evaluate their programs and are committed to continuously seeking improvement to ensure their services provide the best possible care to animals and meet the needs of the public.

What will accreditation do for my organization?
  • Improve practices and increase effectiveness of humane societies and SPCAs
  • Promote transparency and accountability in the sector to help maintain public trust
  • Solve the donor trust problem and increase funding to humane societies and SPCAs
  • Stave off further government regulation
  • Increase efficiency and reduce costs and risks
What are the benefits of accreditation for humane societies and SPCAs?
  • Measures compliance against standards of excellence
  • Focuses improvement efforts on quality issues
  • Provides organizations with direction to achieve improvement
  • Promotes a healthy environment by increasing communications and collaboration
  • Focuses attention on safety, ethics and quality
  • Promotes a “sense of pride”
  • Celebrates progress
  • Achieves a seal of quality
How was the accreditation program developed?

The development of the accreditation program was overseen by a Standards Advisory Committee comprised of animal welfare experts from across Canada. The standard was developed following extensive research into standards for animal shelters as well as charitable and not-for-profit organizations, and went through a number of revisions before it was released for national consultation. It outlines what organizations are required to do to provide safe, ethical, and high-quality care and services, and be responsive and accountable to the public. The standard and the accreditation program were piloted at one humane society and two SPCAs (one small and one large) before being finalized and made available to all Humane Canada members.

What are the steps to becoming accredited?

The Humane Canada accreditation program has four phases:

1. The humane society or SPCA seeking accreditation first completes a self-assessment where it evaluates its governance, leadership, and programs against the criteria in the standard. It also collects evidence to justify its ratings.

2. The organization submits the completed self-assessment and evidence to Humane Canada, where it is evaluated by trained peer reviewers to determine if the organization is ready for a virtual site visit. This is known as the Readiness Assessment.

3. Organizations that pass the Readiness Assessment prepare for and undergo a virtual site visit. During the visit, trained peer reviewers go to the organization to assess the extent to which the criteria are met by talking to staff and volunteers and reviewing policies, procedures, and other documentation at the site, where the documents are used in practice.

4. The reviewers use their site visit findings to rate the organization against the criteria and subsequently recommend an accreditation decision to the Humane Canada Board of Directors. Successful organizations are accredited for five years and are required to submit a progress report after three years specifically reporting on updates to partially met and unmet criteria.

What factors are taken into account for the accreditation process?

The Humane Canada accreditation standard is divided into three parts:

  • Part A: Governance and Management
  • Part B: Sheltering and Animal Management
  • Part C: Programs

Each part is sub-divided into sections containing the criteria that a Humane Society or SPCA is expected to meet to become accredited. The criteria detail what is required for an organization to show that it provides safe, humane, and ethical care. It is the organization’s responsibility to demonstrate how it meets or exceeds these expectations, within its capacities and resources and in accordance with evidence-based practice and applicable legislation.

Download the standard document here.

What is the decision framework?

Humane Canada grants accreditation according to a decision framework that weights each criterion and takes into account the degree to which the organization meets it.

In addition to the weighting, the decision framework sets out the following caveats.

  • Eligibility criteria: Organizations must meet two criteria to be eligible to apply for accreditation. These are: 1.1, registered charity or not-for-profit; and 15.1, spaying or neutering prior to adoption. These are noted in the standard.
  • Accreditation Pending: The following four criteria may affect the timing of when accreditation is granted, as outlined below: 1.4, mission, vision, values, and position statements; 2.4, board member compensation; 3.2, release of annual financial statements; and 18.1, euthanasia. These are noted in the standard.
  • If an organization partially meets one or more of more of these criteria and otherwise meets the threshold to be accredited, it will be issued a decision of Accreditation Pending with a specified timeframe to meet the criterion or criteria. Until it demonstrates that it meets the criterion or criteria, the organization will not be considered for accreditation and will not be authorized to present itself as accredited.
  • If an organization does not meet one or more of these criteria, it will not be accredited, even if it otherwise meets the threshold to be accredited.

Does my organization have to be a Humane Canada member or associate in order to become accredited?

No, all humane societies and SPCAs in Canada are invited to become accredited, regardless of whether or not they hold membership with Humane Canada. If you are thinking of becoming a member and help enact change at the national level, please find out more about membership here.

I work/volunteer at an animal rescue organization, can we apply to become accredited?

Yes, as long as your organization meets the following two paramenters:

1. Your organization is a registered Canadian not-for-profit and/or charity that has been incorporated federally or provincially, and it meets the requirements to operate as such and is in good standing.

Please be prepared to provide the following evidence:

  • Proof of registered charity status or incorporated not-for-profit status
  • Statement attesting that applicable Canada Revenue Agency requirements checklists are completed annually
  • List of complaints or investigations of legal status, if applicable

2. Dogs or cats adopted into homes are spayed or neutered prior to the adoption contract being signed and ownership being transferred, except where medical considerations warrant delaying those procedures. Spay or neuter surgeries are performed by a licensed veterinarian or by a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian and in compliance with applicable legislation, as per the Canadian Advisory Council on National Shelter Standards (2013). Direct supervision by a veterinarian is also required for interns who perform spay or neuter surgeries.

Please be prepared to provide the following evidence:

  • Description of spay and neuter practices and/or policy and protocol
  • Description of adoption practices and/or policy and protocol
My organization has not received charitable status yet, does this make us ineligible to apply?

Your organization does not need to have charitable status, but it does need to be incorporated federally or provincially. Please refer to the previous question for further details on suggested evidence to prove this.

What are the fees associated with the accreditation process?

Click here to download a PDF document with a complete breakdown of the program structure and fees.

Documents and Resources

Important: Once application has been completed, please e-mail it to