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Horses are livestock

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Equines are Livestock

Traditionally equine which includes horses, donkeys and mules, have been considered livestock in Canada. The definitions and interpretations of “equine as livestock” by provincial and federal ministries creates confusion and may be inconsistent resulting in a negative effect in the equine sector of the livestock industry.

Equine are bred and raised on farms, ranches, acreages, feedlots or stables and are used in various personal, recreational and commercial activities and/or enterprises. They are traditionally raised in an agricultural setting and the maintenance of equine utilizes agricultural products and practices such as hay, grain and grazing.

The Canadian equine industry is a major business that makes a significant contribution to the economic well-being of our nation. According to 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 regarding equine across Canada would improve the viability, impact and understanding of the Canada equine industry. .

A clear designation of equine as livestock would define the realities of commercial and private breeding, owning and attending to the health and welfare of our horses, donkeys and mules. The designation is important to ensure equines are not improperly classified as companion animals, similar to household pets.

There are some members of the equine species that are excellent companion animals and some that provide therapeutic benefits. These animals are carefully selected and individually trained for purpose and safety and do not represent a significant percentage of equine in Canada.


  1. Federal regulation of equine and 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), Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) and Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).

    CFIA is responsible for the enforcement of the Health of Animals Act, Health of Animals Regulations (Part XII – Transport of Animals) and humane slaughter issues fall under the Meat Inspection Regulations, Meat Inspection Act and all issues related to federally Reportable and Notifiable diseases.

  2. 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.

    Each province and/or territory has animal anti-cruelty laws, some contract the enforcement of these regulations to 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 equine is to be considered non-livestock then livestock anti-cruelty laws, regulations and welfare issues may not apply.

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

  3. Many municipal governments in Canada have bylaws respecting livestock including equine. Municipal and provincial authorities and citizens have different priorities for livestock and other animals such as pets. This confusion creates a waste of resources and increases risk during emergent, evacuations and/or rescue situations.


Currently Canada Revenue Agency recognizes equine owners and breeders who declare income and deduct expenses resultant from owning, breeding and/or marketing as farmers (agriculture). Currently equine owners and breeders are treated differently from other livestock producers respecting goods and sales taxes. Equines are the only livestock not zero-rated for federal GST and where applicable, provincial HST. Taxations on feed and care items is unique compared to other multi-use species such as rabbits, lamas and ostriches etc. This discrimination may be an unfair financial burden on equine business operators and is inconsistent in the agriculture industry.


Some individuals wish to change the definition of equines from livestock to “companion animal” or “pets” possibly because they believe it would affect the use of equine meat for human consumption. The decision to send any livestock to a processing facility to provide meat for human consumption or to eat meat, is a democratic choice that should not be mandated by Canadian law but the process thereof should be regulated under food safety guidelines (CFIA). Changing the classification of equine from livestock may not affect processing or consumption.

The disposal of livestock carcasses is a concern. In some municipalities it is illegal to bury, dump or abandon an animal carcass and many municipal landfill site will not accept animals. The cost to euthanize livestock including equines and to dispose of remains may be prohibitive to some and may cause suffering of some aged, diseased or injured animals.


Equine have long been considered livestock in the eyes of most Canadians and throughout the world. This does not prevent individuals from enjoying their equines as companion animals. This is a personal choice and privilege, just as it is the right of others to continue to respectfully care for them as livestock.

Considering the Canadian population of equine animals to be in excess of one million it is hereby submitted the number and/or percentage of those equine used, trained or deployed as “pet/companion/therapeutic” animals is less than one percent of the population and therefore to declare all equine animals to be other than livestock misrepresents the livestock/agriculture industry.

Changing or amending the legal definition of all equines to companion animals under law will adversely affect the health and welfare of our equine population. Livestock owners and others are encouraged to voice an opinion that is based on fact and relative issues as opposed to emotion. The general classification of all or any part of the equine species as “pet/companion/therapeutic” animal is misleading, creates inconsistency and places equine owners in an inequitable position within the agricultural industry.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 June 2018 07:36 )