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Horses are livestock

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Livestock is most commonly considered animals kept or raised in a farm or ranch setting as a commercial enterprise or part thereof. The raising and custody of livestock is an agricultural endeavor that promotes the use and preservation of green space in a lifestyle that is desirable to many.

Are horses livestock?

Horses are livestock. Traditionally horses have been considered livestock in Canada. Horses are kept and raised on farms, ranches or acreages and are used in various personal and commercial activities and enterprises. The definitions and interpretations of “horses as livestock” by provincial and federal ministries creates confusion and negative effects on the viability of the equine industry.

The Canadian horse industry is a major business that makes a significant contribution to the economic well-being of the country. According to the 2010 Canadian Equine Industry Profile Study the equine industry contributes 19 billion dollars annually to the Canadian economy and supports more than 154,000 jobs. Consistent regulations and definitions across Canada would improve the viability and impact of the Canada equine industry.

There are members of the equine species that are excellent companion animals and many that provide therapeutic benefits.These animals are carefully selected and individually trained for purpose and safety.

The legal status of horses in Canada?

A clear designation of livestock is most reflective of the realities of breeding, owning, attending to the health and welfare of horses. The designation is important to ensure horses are not generally classified as companion animals, similar to household pets.

Municipal, provincial, territorial and federal laws and regulations: The federal care and regulation of horses and horse related activities comes under the purview of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Part of the objective of AAFC is to improve and maintain farm income; develop and expand markets; protect the herds and carry out related research. AAFC provides valuable technical expertise and monetary support for such things as research respecting the prevention of equine diseases such as Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA), Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE), and Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM).

CFIA is responsible for the enforcement of the Animal Protection Act and the safe transportation of equines as well as administration related to reportable and notifiable diseases and food safety.

Provincial governments are responsible for the regulation of some livestock related activities within the province. Many provincial agriculture departments provide valuable support and assistance to the equine industry with regulatory programs.

Each province and/or territory has animal anti-cruelty laws. Some provinces and/or territories contract the enforcement of these regulations to a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). In most cases the provincial/territorial regulations are related to humane treatment and welfare of livestock. If horses were to be considered non-livestock, livestock anti-cruelty laws and regulations may not apply.

If livestock status is not recognized for horses, there is a possibility of losing the already limited financial support horses receive federally and provincially respecting research, regulation, and disaster relief.

Tax issues. Currently Canada Revenue Agency recognizes some horse owners and breeders who declare income and deduct expenses resultant from owning horses to be treated as farmers (agriculture).

Horse owners and breeders are treated differently from livestock for goods and sales taxes. Horses are the only livestock not zero-rated for provincial HST and/or federal GST. Taxation on the sale and purchase of horses as well as feed and care is unique amongst livestock species in Canada. Other multi-use species such as rabbits, lamas and ostriches are exempt. This causes an unfair financial burden on horse business operators, economically weakens the sector and is inconsistent with their place in the agriculture industry.

Why do some want to change the definition of horses?

Some individuals wish to change the definition of horses from livestock to something different because they believe it would prevent the use of horse meat for human consumption. The decision to send equine to a processing facility like other livestock for human consumption or to eat horse meat is a democratic choice that should not be mandated by law but should be regulated under food safety guidelines.

The disposal of livestock carcasses is also a concern. Some municipal laws make it illegal to bury an animal or dump a carcass at a landfill site. The cost of disposal of any livestock might be prohibitive so that the animal may be left to suffer until death.


The horse has long been considered livestock in the eyes of most Canadians and throughout the world. This does not prevent individuals from enjoying their horses as companion animals. This is a personal choice and privilege, just as it is the right of others to continue to care for them as livestock. Changing or amending the legal definition of all horses to companion animals under law could adversely affect horse owners and breeders and would not necessarily enhance equine health and welfare. Horse owners and others should be encouraged to voice an opinion that is based on fact and relative issues.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 06 May 2017 13:14 )