What are the obligations of a pet owner? Do domestic animals have rights?

Until 2015, animals were considered as movable goods. However, Bill 54 “An Act to Improve the Legal Situation of Animals” adopted in December 2015 states in the first article that “animals are not property. They are sentient beings and they have biological imperatives. “[1]

In this regard, the owners have the obligation to ensure that the animals receive the appropriate care according to their biological needs. Otherwise, the offending owner will be fined up to $ 250,000 and for a subsequent offence, the fine could double, even triple and one could go to jail for a maximum period of 18 months.

However, the bill does not give rights to animals. The provisions of the Civil Code of Québec in respect of property continue to apply to them! Quebec is on track concerning the protection of animals but much remains to be done.

As for the owners, they must ensure that their animals do not constitute a nuisance within the meaning of most municipal regulations. Several cities will even ban certain breeds of dog in their territory.

In case of offence, a judge of the Municipal Court can fine the owners, or, order the animals to be euthanized in some cases.

Rest assured, euthanasia is considered only in cases where the animals are dangerous. We all understand that euthanasia is an irreversible solution. Therefore, to avoid euthanasia, pet owners can contest the order of euthanasia and provide alternative measures such as muzzling the animal, behavioral therapy or training classes for animals, fencing the residence or sterilize the animal.

In addition, the owners are responsible for the physical and moral damage caused to others by their pet. These situations do not result in a fault liability which means that as soon as there is evidence that your pet has caused injury, you are responsible even if he was not in your custody at that time. However, if you prove that the damage was caused by a third party, the victim or “force majeure”, you can be considered not responsible partially or totally. Therefore, be careful with your pet, the law is harsh on the owners!

If you need more information, or for any other questions, please contact us.

Text written by Me Nancy Drolet with the help of Andrey Leshyner student / Translated by Andrey Leshyner

[1] Projet de loi no 54 (2015, chapitre 35) Loi visant l’amélioration de la situation juridique de l’animal, article 1.