Pet Sources Guidelines

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Guidelines for Reputable Pet Sources

Dogs and Cats

This document is intended to provide specific information to help the public identify reputable sources for obtaining a dog or cat. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies strongly urges those seeking a pet to invest the time and effort to ensure they acquire a pet from a reputable source and avoid supporting puppy mills and other disreputable sources.

There has been considerable awareness about puppy mills over the past few decades. But the public should also be aware that there are substandard and disreputable sheltering and rescue groups as well. This document will help define the practices of reputable facilities or organizations.

The two recommended sources for acquiring a pet dog or cat are:

  • adoption from a reputable, caring, knowledgeable animal shelter or rescue
  • purchase from a reputable, caring, knowledgeable breeder

Adoption Option

Humane societies, SPCAs and reputable rescue groups are charitable and/or non-profit organizations that fulfil a societal need to care for and re-home animals that are abandoned, surrendered, neglected or abused. Municipal animal pound facilities also provide temporary shelter for stray or abandoned animals and offer them for adoption. All these organizations have an obligation to provide good health and welfare for the animals in their care and to implement responsible adoption protocols.

A reputable animal shelter or rescue is one that follows these practices:

  1. Are registered charities.
  2. Shelter facilities are clean, well-maintained and not over crowded and comply with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Codes of Practice for Kennel or Cattery Operations.
  3. All dogs are temperament tested prior to offering for adoption.
  4. Animals that pose a significant risk to people or other animals are not available for adoption.
  5. All animals are spayed/neutered prior to adoption, or a rebate is given with proof of spay/neuter after adoption.
  6. All animals have been vaccinated, dewormed as appropriate, permanently identified (microchip or tattoo) and checked by a veterinarian or animal health technician prior to adoption.
  7. All animals come with a health guarantee.
  8. Adopters are diligently screened to ensure a good match.
  9. Adoption agencies will keep records of all adoptions.
  10. Any known existing health or temperament issues are revealed to potential adopters
  11. Adopters are required to sign an adoption agreement that stipulates their responsibilities and outlines what health guarantee is provided for      the animal.
  12. When shelter and rescue groups work with retailers to house and adopt out shelter animals, these same protocols are followed.

Breeder Option

Breeders selling puppies and kittens have an obligation to provide a high level of care for all their animals at every stage of their life and to adhere to stringent breeding and placement principles. The welfare of their animals and the offspring they produce must take precedence over profits.

A Reputable breeder is one that follows these practices:


  1. Animals are sold directly from the breeder.
  2. Breeders require all buyers to visit their facilities and their animals before approving a sale.
  3. Breeders show potential buyers their entire facility where their animals are kept.
  4. Breeders provide a high level of care for all their animals, meeting their physical, environmental and social needs, including for retired breeding animals.
  5. Breeders are members of their national breed club and the Canadian Kennel Club (for dogs) and adhere to the clubs’ codes of ethics.
  6. Breeders will talk knowledgeably about their breed(s) to ensure that potential buyers are well informed about the animal’s needs for training, socialization, exercise, good health, etc.


  1. Dogs and cats may be kept and raised in the home or in a kennel/cattery facility.
  2. If animals are kept in a kennel/cattery, the facility must, at minimum, comply with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Codes of Practice for Kennel Operations or Cattery Operations.
  3. Home breeders must also comply with the Kennel and Cattery codes where appropriate. (The sections on construction, ceilings and floors are specific to kennel or cattery facilities.)

Animal Care and Socialization

  1. All puppies and kittens have been vaccinated and dewormed as appropriate, and have been deemed in good health by a veterinarian prior to sale.
  2. Puppies and kittens are raised in the home where they are exposed to household noises and routines and are handled regularly by many different people.
  3. Neonates are kept clean, warm, well fed and with the mother until at least 6 weeks.
  4. Puppies do not go to their new homes before 8 weeks of age and kittens not before 10 weeks of age.
  5. All animals receive at least annual veterinary checks.
  6. All animals have daily exercise.

Breeding Practices

  1. Breeders are knowledgeable about genetic disorders occurring in their breed and they screen all breeding animals for any such genetic disorders (ie hip dysplasia, eye or heart disorders, etc.). Animals with genetic disorders are not bred.
  2. Breeders use these screening tests to plan breedings most likely to produce offspring that are physically healthy as well as structurally, genetically and temperamentally sound.
  3. Breeders are knowledgeable about structure, movement and behaviour,  and have a basic knowledge of health care and first aid.
  4. Females are not bred younger than 18 months and no more than 5 times in their life for cats and small-medium sized dogs and not more than 4 times for large breeds.
  5. Breeders have a reasonable number of approved homes lined up for the offspring before the female is bred.
  6. Breeders do not breed more than 2-3 different breeds.
  7. Breeders maintain current and accurate records pertaining to their breeding program, the particulars of all dog or cat registrations and all sales transactions.

Selling Practices

  1. All animals are microchipped or tattooed prior to sale.
  2. Breeders carry out a comprehensive screening process of all potential purchasers to ensure that animals only go to responsible, informed homes that are a good match for the breed and the individual animal.
  3. Breeders sell all dogs and cats with a health guarantee that includes genetic disorders. Such guarantee will include financial reimbursement up to the price of the animal in the event of any serious health or genetic issue in the first year.
  4. Breeders will not sell their puppies or kittens to pet stores or any other 3rd party.
  5. Breeders provide purchasers with copies of formal health clearances from reputable registries (such as the Orthopedic Foundation of America, PennHip or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation), for the sire and dam of the litter, showing that they are clear of relevant genetic disorders.
  6. Breeders provide all buyers with copies of vaccination certificates, the dog’s pedigree and registration papers (for purebred dogs) from a reputable agency, such as the Canadian Kennel Club. (The Animal Pedigree Act prohibits the selling of a dog as purebred if it is not registered or      eligible to be registered as a purebred by the Canadian Kennel Club or other registry recognized under the Act.)
  7. Breeders sell all pet puppies and kittens with a non-breeding agreement that forbids breeding.
  8. All buyers are provided with information on diet, socialisation, breed information and general care of their new animal.
  9. Breeders will take back any animal they have sold, at any time and for any reason if the owner no longer wants it. If a breeder gets an animal back, they will assess the animal for health and temperament and then offer it for placement as appropriate.
  10. Breeders require purchasers to sign a contract that spells out the breeder’s responsibilities as well as the purchaser’s responsibilities for care and socialization of the animal.

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