Getting a Pet

Law

There are legal issues to consider when adopting and owning a pet in Alberta. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Your legal responsibility to care for your pet
  • Having a pet when you rent your home
  • Adopting a pet from an animal shelter
  • Buying a pet
  • Importing pets and travelling with pets
  • Exotic pets and wildlife

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: September 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains legal information about adopting and owning a pet.

In general, the law on this Information Page is about people who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about owning a pet in Alberta. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

The following are some of the terms used on this Information Page. If you are looking for other legal terms, you can use the Glossary.

animal shelter

A place where homeless and unwanted pets are temporarily housed and cared for. Some animal shelters attempt to find homes for homeless animals and assist in finding the owners of lost pets.

bylaws

Laws specific to a “municipality”—a city, town, village, or county.

contract

A formal agreement by 2 or more people (or groups) to do something, or to not do something. The agreement can be enforced by law if it meets the legal requirements of a contract.

domestic animals

Animals kept by people, and dependent on those people for their basic needs. This includes both farm animals (livestock) and companion animals (pets).

The laws that may apply to you

When dealing with a legal issue, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply to your situation. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Animal Protection Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Wildlife Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Service Dogs Act (and its associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Health of Animals Act (S.C. 1990, c. 21)
Government of Canada
English

Web Health of Animals Regulations (C.R.C., c. 296)
Government of Canada
English


Web Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. The links above take you to a page that lists the laws themselves as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

Deciding to get a pet: Legal considerations and practical matters

You will need to find a pet that fits well with your lifestyle, and make sure that you can meet its needs.

There are also laws that limit what animals you may keep as a pet. For example, the bylaws of some cities and towns do not allow certain kinds of dog breeds to be kept. Also, there are laws at every level of government about keeping certain types of unusual or wild animals as pets. For more information, see the sections below titled:

  • “Getting your pet licenced & following your local bylaws”; and
  • “Exotic pets & ‘adopting’ wildlife”

For information on deciding to get a pet and choosing a pet, see the following resources.

Web The cost of owning a cat or dog
City of Calgary
English

Web Five Common Misconceptions About Pet Adoption
Petfinder
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Checklist for New Adopters
Petfinder
English

Web Ten Rules For Choosing The Right Pet
Ronald Hines
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web What do I need to know before I get a new pet?
RSPCA Australia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Finding the right pet
Blue Cross for Pets
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Legal responsibility to care for pets

Most people who are planning to get a pet realize that they will be responsible to care for that pet. But they may not be aware that Alberta’s Animal Protection Act says that people who own or are in charge of animals have a legal duty to care for them.

Animals must be provided with:

  • enough suitable food and enough water;
  • proper care when wounded or ill (which includes veterinary care as needed);
  • protection from heat or cold that could injure the animal; and
  • proper shelter, including enough air and space for the animal to move around.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Pet Care
Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English

Web Pet care and behaviour
British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English

Web Pet Care
Petfinder
English

For more information about what is considered animal abuse, see the Animal Abuse Information Page.

If you rent your home

Renters who want to get a pet need to know whether their landlord will allow tenants to have a pet. In Alberta, the Residential Tenancies Act does not have any rules about pets. Landlords are free to decide whether or not to allow pets in their rental property. Landlords can also make rules about pets including:

  • the type, number, or size of pets that are allowed; and
  • any extra fee for having a pet, and whether or not the fee is refundable.

If you signed a rental agreement, you can check what it says about pets. You must follow the terms of your lease. If there are no terms about pets or if you do not have a written rental agreement, then you will need to ask your landlord about having a pet.

Tip

Even if other people in the building have pets, it is still important to check with your landlord. Sometimes the rules in a building change over time. Those people with pets may be allowed to keep theirs, but no one is allowed to get any new pets. Also, keep in mind that those tenants may be breaking the rules. You could find yourself in trouble by doing the same.

If you are renting a condo, both you and your landlord must follow the “condo bylaws.” Condo bylaws are rules that only apply to people who live in the building. This includes both owners and renters. This means that if the condo bylaws say that there cannot be any pets in the building, then your landlord cannot give you permission to have a pet. Condo bylaws can also cover other situations related to pets, such as noise or where pets are allowed to “do their business.” You can ask your landlord for a copy of the condo bylaws.

Service dogs are not pets. These dogs are specially trained to help people with disabilities. Landlords and condo boards must obey the Alberta Service Dogs Act, which says that qualified service dogs must be allowed access to public places, including rental accommodation. This means that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because you have a service dog. If they do, they can be fined up to $5,000.

The Service Dogs Act does not apply to any other assistive animals, such as emotional support animals. However, the Alberta Human Rights Act protects against discrimination on the grounds of disability. As a result, landlords could have a “duty to accommodate” tenants with assistive animals. This means that they may have to make an exception to their rules for such tenants and their animals.

For more information about renting with service animals, see the following resources.

Web Frequently Asked Questions - Service Dogs Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Duty to accommodate
Government of Alberta
English

For more general information about pets and renting in Alberta, see the following resources.

PDF What you need to know about... renting with a pet in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF 5 Tips for Renting with a Pet
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Sample Pet Agreement for Alberta Renters
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Sample Pet Resume
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Renting with a Pet
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web People, Parking, Pets, and Other Issues
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Pets.”

Web Renting with Pets
Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English
Adopting a pet or buying a pet?

Adopting a pet means you are getting it from a rescue organization, Humane Society, or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). There is more information about this option in the “Adopting a pet from an animal shelter” section below.

Buying a pet means you are getting it from a breeder, pet store, or advertisement (such as Kijiji). There is more information about this option in the “Buying a pet” section below.

There are many arguments made for adopting a pet rather than buying one from a breeder or any other source. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Shelter vs Breeder
Positively.com
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Choosing a Dog Part One: Adopt or Buy?
DogStarDaily.com
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


Web Should I buy a purebred pup, or rescue a dog?
The Globe and Mail
English

Web Why adopt instead of buying a pet
Montréal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English

Web Pourquoi adopter au lieu d'acheter un animal
Montréal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
French
Adopting a pet from an animal shelter or humane society

Many people choose to adopt a pet from their local animal shelter or humane society. This can be a good choice because usually the animals up for adoption from these places are:

  • known to be healthy;
  • already spayed or neutered; and
  • current with all of their shots.

However, it is still a good idea to ask about these things, and even to get the animal checked by a veterinarian before taking it home.

When you fill out the paperwork to adopt a pet, be prepared to show proof of your address. Shelters’ adoption policies may vary, so you should be aware of your local shelter’s policies. For example: many shelters require all members of the household to agree to adopting the pet. You may also not be allowed to get a pet as a surprise gift for someone. This is to make sure that the pet will be loved and taken care of in its new home.

To find a shelter in your area, see the following resource.

Web SPCAs, Humane Societies & Shelters
Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English

For examples of adoption policies in Alberta, see the following resources. Remember that the adoption policies will be different for each shelter, but these will give you an idea of what to expect.

Web Adoption Policy
Calgary Humane Society
English

Web Adoption Process
Edmonton Humane Society
English
Adopting a pet from a rescue organization

In addition to animal shelters, humane societies, and SPCAs, there are many different kinds of animal rescue organizations in Alberta. It is possible to adopt pets from these organizations.

Each organization has its own procedures and paperwork. As a result, you will want to get as much information as possible before deciding to adopt a pet from a rescue organization. For example:

  • Has the animal already been spayed or neutered?
  • Is the animal current with all of its shots?
  • Is there a report about the animal’s health available?

It is a good idea to ask about these things, and even get the animal checked by a veterinarian before taking it home. Your local shelter may also be able to recommend rescue organizations in your area.

Web SPCAs, Humane Societies & Shelters
Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English
Buying a pet from a breeder, pet store, or advertisement

There are no specific consumer laws governing the sale of pets. As a result, you may want to keep in mind general guidelines for making good purchases. These include:

  • Do your research. Is this the right pet for you? Of those pets, is there a breed that would be better for you?
  • Choose a reliable source. Many organizations suggest you find an animal breeder with a good reputation instead of buying from a pet store or an unknown Internet dealer. You can ask the seller for references. Speaking to references can help you determine the quality of a seller.
  • Ask about a return policy. Will the seller or breeder take the animal back if it does not fit in with your family? Or will they help you find a new home for the animal?
  • Ask for a written contract and a health guarantee. If you have any problems after the purchase, it can be easier to settle disputes when the terms of the purchase have been clearly laid out in writing.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Buying Pets Online: What You Need to Know!
Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English

Web Choosing the Right Breeder
Positively.com
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web A consumer's guide to buying a pet
Government of Western Australia
English
This resource has good tips and general information about buying a pet. However, the law described is Australian law, so will not apply in Alberta.

Web Buying Goods and Services
Consumer Measures Committee
English

Web Achat de biens et de services
Consumer Measures Committee
French
Remember

There are many reasons to consider adopting a pet rather than buying a pet. For more information, see the “Adopting a pet or buying a pet?” section above.

Getting your pet licenced & following your local bylaws

Pet ownership in Alberta is regulated by the “municipality” (city, town, or village) where you live. These municipal bylaws lay out the details of pet ownership, including:

  • which breeds are not allowed;
  • which pets need to be licenced;
  • required vaccinations and medical treatment; and
  • the behaviour of your pet.

For more information about how bylaws can affect you and your pet, see your city, town or county’s website (major centres are linked below) and the following resource.

Web The Neighbour Series Part 3: Pets and bylaws
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Calgary

Web The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw
City of Calgary
English

Edmonton

Web Owning a Pet in Edmonton
City of Edmonton
English

Web Pets & Wildlife
City of Edmonton
English

Fort McMurray

Web Animal Control Services: FAQ
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
English

Grande Prairie

Web Animal Control
City of Grande Prairie
English

Lethbridge

Web Service Directory: Animal Shelter
City of Lethbridge
English

Medicine Hat

PDF Bylaw No. 3935
Medicine Hat Police Service
English

Web Forms and Applications
Medicine Hat Police Service
English

Red Deer

Web Animals and Wildlife
City of Red Deer
English
Importing pets & travelling with pets

Just like people, animals cannot move freely across borders. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency controls the importing of animals and animal products. Their requirements depend on the type of animal. You will need to follow them whether the animal is:

  • coming to Canada for a short period of time;
  • being brought into Canada permanently; or
  • passing through Canada on the way to somewhere else.

Other countries also have their own rules about what animals and animal products can be imported. You may need a certificate of health or other permits to bring your pet into another country.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Importing or Travelling with Pets
Government of Canada
English

Web Can I Come Too? Protecting Pets When They Travel
Government of Canada
English

Web Bringing your pet to Canada
Government of Canada
English

Web Travel documents for your pets
Government of Canada
English

French resources:



Web Apporter votre animal au Canada
Government of Canada
French

Exotic pets & “adopting” wildlife

Certain animals have a long history of being kept by people. For example: dogs, cats, or farm animals. These are called “domestic animals.” Sometimes people want to keep a pet that is not normally a domestic animal. Because they are unusual, they are often called “exotic pets.” Or, people may find a wild baby animal that seems to be abandoned by its mother, or an animal that has been hurt. They may wonder about keeping it as a pet.

There are many concerns with keeping animals that do not usually live with people, or are from another part of the world. These include:

  • controlling diseases that may be carried by animals;
  • protecting people from animals that can be dangerous;
  • protecting animals that are in danger of extinction; or
  • avoiding the introduction of invasive species. (Invasive species are animals that have no natural predators. They can crowd out the animals that belong in an area and destroy the natural environment.)

At every level of government, there are rules about owning wild animals.

  • International: You may need to get a permit to show that the animal you want is not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Canada: Federal regulations govern importing animals. For more information, see the “Importing pets & travelling with pets” section above.
  • Provincial: Alberta has several laws that restrict the ownership of wildlife, and that control which wild animals can be brought into the province.
  • Municipal: Many local governments have restrictions on the kinds of animals that are allowed. For more information, see the “Getting your pet licenced & following your local bylaws” section above.
Be Aware

Alberta has a very active program to keep the province free of rats. As a result, no one is allowed to keep any type of rat as a pet. Only those with specific permits may keep rats. For example, for scientific research.

For more information, see the following resources.



Web Wildlife as Pets
Government of Alberta
English

Web Wildlife Import/Export Permits
Government of Alberta
English

Web A Question about Importing Pets
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Exotic Pets and the Law
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Exotic Pet Ownership in Canada
University of British Columbia
English

Web Keeping native or exotic wild animals as pets - Position Statement
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Alberta
Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
English

Process

See the resources on the Law tab of this Information Page for information about the steps you may need to take when owning a pet.

Last Reviewed: October 2015

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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