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We call ourselves Humane Canada, and that’s because it’s our vision: building a humane country. But how do we know if we are making progress toward that goal?

After much reflection and consultation with experts across the country, Humane Canada has developed a list of indicators that will help us measure how we are progressing in a diversity of issues – issues that affect companion animals, farmed animals, wild animals, animals used in science: all animals.

While this list is not exhaustive and may not cover every single animal welfare concern, it is a way for us to assess the impact of our society’s legal system, policies and behaviours on animals.

We’ve organized the indicators into seven keystones that support the conception of a country that values animals – a humane Canada. They are:

Over the coming years, we will be measuring these indicators in order to evaluate our current status and progress toward ultimately achieving the goal of making Canada a more humane country.

Consideration Keystone Report

In Canadian society, there is an expectation that we treat one another with respect and dignity. In a humane country, likewise, there is an understanding that each animal has a life worthy of respect and dignity; they are not considered as consumer products or objects of thoughtless use, but rather as individuals within our communities. Ethical considerations guide our legislation and decision-making about animal use. Where we do not have direct responsibility for care, we nonetheless have a responsibility to respect the needs and interests of animals, and the law restricts us from harming them for exploitative purposes.

The Consideration Keystone Report examines Canada’s alignment with these humane principles by assessing how animals are considered within various practices and institutions.

  • Indicator C1: Laws addressing ethical, responsible breeding of pets

    In a humane country, companion animals are bred in an ethical and controlled fashion, avoiding the birth of more animals than homes that can be provided while allowing only traits that promote good health and welfare. In Canada, laws addressing ethical breeding practices are lacking across the country. Harmonized regulations and licensing systems with legally mandated codes of practice are needed to protect animal welfare.

  • Indicator C2: Juvenile animals in shelters

    Breeding companion animals responsibly includes only producing litters who will have a home. The presence of unwanted juvenile animals, in particular, is a clear sign that too many companion animals are being bred for sale or by accident. In 2021, more than half of cats and more than a quarter of dogs surrendered to shelters were juvenile, representing a drastic increase relative to recent years. Oversight is needed to ensure responsible breeding and to minimize the number of animals who are being bred without homes available for them to go to.

  • Indicator C3: Animal dissection in schools

    Modern technologies capable of replacing dissections and eliminating the need to use animals have become more plentiful in recent years. Furthermore, they provide greater advantages for learning and are less costly. While no provincial curriculum specifically requires animal dissection, all ten continue permit it. One province allows animal dissection only if alternatives are unable to meet learning objectives. Only three provinces expressly recognize a student’s choice to pursue non-animal alternatives to dissection. These types of approaches are important for reducing unnecessary animal use and protecting students’ choice to abstain from dissection, and should be implemented more widely.

  • Indicator C4: Schoole board policies allowing students choice regarding dissections

    While dissection continues to be used as a tool for satisfying curriculum learning objectives across the country, student choice policies are important to protect the interests of students who object to the practice. However, school board policies allowing students to refrain from dissections are scarce. A preferred approach is for school boards to establish opt-in policies for dissections, by which students must actively consent to performing a dissection, or otherwise receive an alternative option.

    Additional Resources:

    For an example of a school board policy protecting students’ choice to opt-out of dissection, see: Alternatives to Dissection policy

  • Indicator C5: Regulatory testing on animals

    Toxicity testing is a regulatory process to determine the impact of a product, device, or substance on humans, animals, or the environment, and identify any associated risks posed. Regulatory tests have historically been conducted on animals, though non-animal approaches are becoming increasingly available as alternatives to traditional animal-based methods. Just over half of the approximately 150,000 animals reportedly used in regulatory testing in 2021 experienced moderate to severe distress or discomfort or severe pain. The Canadian government passed legislation in 2023 to phase out testing on animals and should ensure all actions are taken to eliminate this practice as soon as possible.

    Additional Resources:

    More data on animals used in science: CCAC Animal Data Reports

  • Indicator C6: Promotion of alternatives to animal use in research

    As non-animal methods are increasingly being developed and used in cosmetic and toxicity testing, it is reasonable to expect technologies and approaches could similarly be applied to reduce and replace the use of animals in scientific research more generally. However, federal funding agencies do not currently include the development and use of non-animal methods in their strategic plans, indicating that, at this level, no direction is being given to reduce and replace animal use in research and no priority is being set to incentivize alternative approaches.

    Additional Resources:

    More on the unreliability of animal experimentation:

  • Indicator C7: Ethical hunting, trapping and fishing practices

    When hunting, trapping, or fishing are performed for recreation rather than subsistence, the non-essential interests of humans are placed above the more crucial interests of the animals. Where these activities are permitted for any purpose, some practices cause more suffering than others and our laws should limit them. While some ethical practices are promoted in Canada, a number of inhumane practices are allowed in regulations, varying widely across the provinces. Significant opportunities to improve these regulations exist.

  • Indicator C8: Wildfire rehabilitation centres/sanctuaries

    Being mindful of the needs and interests of animals and seeing them as individuals within the communities and environment we all share means we recognize and take responsibility for our impacts on them. Wildlife rehabilitation centres/sanctuaries provide protection and care for wildlife, often in response to harms caused by human activities. Fewer than one hundred wildlife rehabilitation centres/sanctuaries exist across the country, and an uncertain funding environment poses challenges for the prevalence and sustainability of these organizations.

  • Indicator C9: Fur farming

    Fur farming is an exploitative use of animals, that is, where animals are used and subjected to suffering for unnecessary reasons, such as fashion or entertainment. The number of fur farms in Canada is at a record low of 97. This exploitative practice should be eliminated entirely by way of provincial or national bans on fur farming.

    Additional Resources:

    More data on fur farms: Stats Canada

  • Indicator C10: Animals ket in captivity and used for entertainment

    Using animals for entertainment purposes generally involves keeping them captive in settings that prevent them from engaging in natural physical and social behaviours that are critical to their welfare. Hundreds of animal-based entertainment facilities and events still exist in Canada, even though they exploit animals.

  • Indicator C11: Exotic pets

    Keeping exotic pets for our own companionship, novelty, or curiosity involves human interests being prioritized over the needs and interests of the animals. Even if a pet owner has respect for the animals and a desire to provide a good level of care, in the vast majority of cases conditions will be inadequate to ensure the animals have good welfare. An estimated 1.4 million exotic animals are kept as pets in Canadian households. Additional legislation is needed to regulate the keeping of exotic animals in Canada and should be aimed at banning the practice altogether.

    Additional Resources:

    More data on exotic pets in Canada: World Animal Protection

Legal Keystone Report

In Canadian society, we have created legal structures that establish rights and responsibilities to protect individual humans, and we expect that when someone is harmed there will be accountability. In a humane country, likewise, there is an understanding that each animal has a life worth living. Animals are recognized as sentient beings by a society that embraces its responsibilities with regard to their interests. This is expressed in the legal framework, and there is accountability to the law when animals are harmed.

The Legal Keystone Report sets out to measure Canada’s alignment with these humane principles by assessing the current status of indicators of a humane legal framework for animals.

  • Indicator L1: Laws in Canada recognize animal sentience

    For an animal to be sentient means that they can experience pain and pleasure, and that these experience matter and have importance to them. Animal sentience remains almost entirely unrecognized in Canadian legislation.

    Additional Resources:

    More on animal sentience

  • Indicator L2: Clear, consistent, and harmonized enforcement

    Canada is a federation of eleven different national and provincial governments, each having their own animal welfare legislation. A formal structure to harmonize enforcement across federal and provincial governments is needed to ensure consistency.

    Additional Resources:

    More on the Canadian animal welfare legislation landscape:

    More on the Canadian animal welfare enforcement landscape:

  • Indicator L3: Dedicated Crown policy and counsel for animal law

    Crown prosecution policies play an important role in promoting consistency in how cases are prosecuted, and having Crown counsel who specialize in a particular area ensures those cases are prosecuted effectively. Policies for the prosecution of offences against animals are absent in Canada, and most provinces lack a formally-recognized Crown prosecutor specializing in animal abuse.

  • Indicator L4: Consistent definitions of offences, powers, and obligations in provincial animal welfare protection

    Since each province has its own animal protection legislation, definitions of offences, powers, and obligations can be inconsistent. In order to provide the strongest protections for animals, more consistent, comprehensive, and clear approaches are needed in provincial legislation.

  • Indicator L5: Integrating animal abuse into crime reporting and tracking systems

    It is critical that existing crime reporting systems integrate animal abuse and use this information to proactively protect humans and animals at risk. With the exception of bestiality cases being tracked in the National Sex Offender Registry, existing crime reporting systems do not integrate cases of animal cruelty; tracking systems do not specifically identify such cases.

    Additional Resources:

    More on the link between violence toward humans and violence toward animals here

  • Indicator L6: Laws address animal abuse and violent offences toward humans in a coordinated fashion

    There are relationships between violence toward humans and violence toward animals that make it important to address these issues together to better protect both humans and animals. A small number of Canadian laws have started to address violence toward humans and animals in a coordinated fashion; more provinces need to do so, applying a consistent approach.

    Additional Resources:

    More on the link between violence toward humans and violence toward animals here

  • Indicator L7: Training of Justice Stakeholders

    Knowledge of the link between violence toward humans and violence toward animals (the Violence Link) among those working in sectors that support humans and animals is critical for addressing violence holistically. Violence Link training is starting to be delivered to justice stakeholders through initiatives of a provincial Crown association, police organizations, and non-governmental organizations.

    Additional Resources:

    More on the Violence Link here

  • Indicator L8: Participation of Crown prosecutors, judges, and police staff in training

    In addition to the development of Violence Link training programs as discussed in Indicator L7, there must also be participation in these training resources by justice stakeholders. Violence Link training is currently reaching the greatest numbers of justice stakeholder participants through programs delivered by police organizations.

  • Indicator L9: Financial resources for enforcement

    Agencies tasked with enforcing animal protection legislation must be adequately resourced if they are to be effective. There is a lack of information about public allocation of funds for animal protection enforcement at the provincial level. A serious concern is that a large non-governmental agency carrying out enforcement across one large province receives no public sector funding.

  • Indicator L10: Effectiveness in addressing animal abuse

    Prosecution is one of the ways of addressing animal abuse concerns in Canada, though there are other approaches outside of the judicial process for addressing underlying issues that lead to animal welfare concerns. Of the cases where charges are laid, a lack of information makes it difficult to determine the proportion of cases where prosecution is pursued.

  • Indicator L11: Reflecting public perspectives, ethics, and values

    The engagement of citizens and experts in policy development on animal welfare matters is important to support robust, evidence-based action with consideration for ethics and values. Canada lacks an animal welfare advisory body to support ethically-sound decision-making on issues regarding animals that reflects the values of Canadians.

  • Indicator L12: Federal leadership on animal welfare

    Central bodies within the federal government ensure important policy issues receive appropriate attention and representation within government. Canada lacks a central body for direction and coordination on animal welfare issues or to ensure animal welfare and interests are considered.

A number of these indicators touch upon the Violence Link, which is the evidence-based link between interpersonal violence and animal abuse. To find out more, click the link below.