Health of Animals Regulations Part XII: Transportation of Animals-Regulatory Amendment – Interpretive Guidance for Regulated Parties
2.0 Interpretation

This part provides descriptions of terms used in the regulation and is provided for additional clarity

2.1 Regulatory Authority

Health of Animals Regulations Section 136 (1)-(3).

2.2 Required Outcomes

Regulated parties will have a clear understanding of the terms and language used in the regulation in order to interpret the law as it relates to the transportation of animals in Canada.

2.3 Guidance to Regulated Parties

While the many of the terms in the regulations are self-explanatory, the terms below were determined to require additional information for certainty:

Commercial carrier: this refers to any carrier whether land, air, sea or rail that transports animals for financial benefit.  This can range from those who transport large numbers of animals daily to those who transport any animal for financial benefit on an infrequent basis.

Compromised: this definition and the partial list of conditions are provided to capture examples of conditions where animals can be only be transported short distances either for care or treatment or for humane killing but such transport requires the animal be provided with measures to protect it from additional suffering.  Regulated parties are encouraged to see Section 142 (1)-(6) regarding the required provisions for compromised animals.  The final item in the list of conditions in Section 136(1) compromised (m) is to capture any other condition that impairs an animal's ability to withstand transportation. However the most commonly seen conditions are provided within the regulation (Section 136 (1)(a-l)) to assist the regulated party.

Compromised animals in general are those with a condition that impairs their ability to tolerate transport.  However, with special provisions they can be transported short distances to the nearest suitable place.  It should be noted that in many cases, compromised animals can easily deteriorate and become unfit for further transport. Provisions for compromised animals include but are not limited to loading the animal last, and unloading it first, providing additional bedding, segregation, taking measures to prevent hypothermia or hyperthermia and only transporting the animal directly for local slaughter or care.  The maximum time a compromised animal can be without feed and water is 12 hours.

Those listed conditions under compromised Section 136(1) that are more frequently observed or may require further guidance are provided here with notes to assist the regulated party:

  • (a) Bloated: an animal may be bloated to varying degrees.  An animal with a degree of untreated or untreatable bloat that will cause the animal to suffer during transport is considered unfit as per 136 (1) unfit (r) and is not to be loaded. Bloat which would lead to a finding of compromised would be any degree of visible but mild bloat.  It must be closely monitored for deterioration of its condition and if the animal becomes unfit it must be transported as per Section 141(3).
  • (b) Labored breathing: An animal that has difficulty breathing would be considered compromised if the breathing is slightly irregular as long as the animal is otherwise fit for transport but it would be considered unfit for transport if it is pronounced as per section 136 (1) unfit (r).  Mild distress could quickly lead to an animal becoming unfit for further transport and collapsing due to lack of oxygen, particularly given the stressors of mixing, loading, crowding, heat, noise, movements, etc.  Regulated parties must monitor these animals closely and take steps to minimize stress.
  • (c) Acute frostbite: during extreme cold, or cold weather combined with wind (wind-chill), animals can develop frostbite.  In the acute stages, the affected tissue can be very painful and subject to tissue death and subsequent infection.  Depending on the location and extent of the affected area, the animal may be at risk of considerable suffering.  For example a small area of acute frostbite at the tip of an ear may be painful, but to one or more feet or an udder, can lead to significant pain, massive tissue loss, infection and even death.
  • (d) Blind in one or both eyes: animals that have lost vision in one or both eyes may have lost it quickly or progressively.  However even in the case of an animal that loses its vision slowly over a period of time and has become accustomed to being blind at the production site; the animal is still to be considered compromised for the purposes of transport.  While the slow progression to blindness or even the existence of blindness since birth allows for a more or less normally behaving animal on the farm, the stresses of mixing, loading, moving, crowding will cause additional stress to the blind animal.
  • (e) Not fully healed after an operation: post-surgical animals that have not fully healed are at risk of wound closure breakdown and are to be handled as compromised.
  • (f), (g) Slightly lame (imperfect locomotion) or has difficulty climbing a ramp or rising: even slight lameness where the source of the lameness might not be immediately identifiable can quickly progress to significant lameness as animals are mixed and penned, navigate ramps and chutes, loaded with and pushed by many other animals, required to balance while being transported across multiple conditions and starts and stops, may fall and be stepped on, and are unloaded and forced to once again navigate ramps, chutes and mixing at the destination.
  • (h) Heavy lactation: an animal that is in heavy lactation is at risk of engorgement and subsequent pain and suffering, and mastitis.
  • (i) Penis injury: breeding males can experience an injury to the penis during mating or by fighting.  These injuries are painful.
  • (j) Rectal or vaginal prolapse: these tissues can be slightly prolapsed and can appear more or less normal however irrespective of the size, the animal is deemed compromised. Further prolapse and deterioration of the tissue due to dehydrated, irritated and inflamed can occur as the animal strains due to discomfort and normal attempts at elimination. Major prolapses leading to animal suffering will render the animal unfit as per section 136 (1) unfit (r). In severe cases, where the prolapsed tissue is very swollen, inflamed or traumatized, or where both the rectum and the vagina are prolapsed and significantly swollen, or when inability to urinate has led to imminent rupture of the bladder, suffering may preclude any transportation and render the animal unfit for transport.  A vaginal prolapse is not to be confused with a uterine prolapse (unfit).
  • (k) Hobbled other than to treat an injury: hobbles are most often used to prevent kicking and to protect handlers and other animals.  Hobbles restrict an animal's ability to balance and navigate chutes and ramps and as such, render the animal compromised when they are used strictly for handler safety reasons.
  • (l) Wet bird: birds that are wet (moisture has reached the skin) to a degree that can impact their ability to fluff their feathers and keep warm are considered compromised.  They are at extreme risk of developing hypothermia during cold conditions if not well protected from the elements during loading and transport and lairage.  Wet birds cannot be loaded without special provisions to keep the birds warm at all points during the catching, loading, transport and unloading and can only be transported short distances as per compromised animals.  However if allowed time and suitable conditions to become dry they can be loaded and transported as per fit birds assuming no other infirmity, illness, injury or condition leads to a finding of compromise or unfit.  It is important to note, that allowing birds time to dry may impact the timing of the feed, water and rest interval therefore longer access to feed and water prior to catching may be necessary for wet birds being dried prior to a prolonged journey.  It is always desirable to keep birds from becoming wet at all times to meet planned schedules.
  • (m) Impaired capacity: the list of conditions most commonly seen rendering an animal compromised are provided in the regulatory text (section 136 – interpretation of compromised) and are clarified above.  However, it is impossible to indicate every condition that might cause suffering if the animal with such a condition were to be loaded without special provisions and transported long distances.  Therefore under section 136 - definition of compromised (m) is a general overarching description that could include all conditions that would lead to suffering if the animal were to be loaded without special provisions and longer distances, including those listed under the same definition – compromised (a) through (l).  It is hoped that listing the most commonly seen conditions will assist regulated parties.  If in doubt whether an animal is fit or compromised, the regulated party is encouraged to assume that it is compromised and treat it accordingly to preclude changes in plans while in transit.  If in doubt as to whether a compromised animal is fit to be loaded, even with the special provisions required in section 142(1)-(6), the regulated party is encouraged to consider the animal unfit and handle as per section 141 (1)-(6) and handle accordingly to preclude changes in plans while in transit.

Confine: refers to the holding of an animal in a conveyance or in a container in the case of crated animals for the purposes of (the intention to) transport.  For the purpose of this regulation, an animal is confined from the moment it is placed on the conveyance in the case of non-crated animals, and from the moment it is placed in the crate or container in the case of crated animals.  Confinement continues while the animal is held in the conveyance or container including any wait times prior to, during or after transit until the time the animal is unloaded from the conveyance in the case of non-crated animals or from the container in the case of crated animals.

Container: any contrivance used to contain an animal for the purposes of transport including a crate.

Humanely kill: animals that are found to be suffering prior to or during transport may be humanely killed. Humane killing involves trained and skilled (in humane killing) persons using generally accepted (by industry) methods and equipment which is easily accessible and well maintained.  Humane killing is done rapidly and efficiently with the least possible fear, anxiety and suffering to the animal.  It is most often preceded by humane stunning unless the killing and stunning occur concurrently.

Humanely stun: animals that are found to be suffering prior to or during transport may be humanely stunned prior to killing. It must be rendered irreversibly unconscious by a trained and skilled (in humane stunning) person using generally accepted (to industry) methods and equipment which is easily accessible and well maintained. Humane stunning is done rapidly and efficiently with the least possible fear, anxiety and suffering to the animal and once done the animal can never return to consciousness and is killed as soon as possible.

Unfit: unfit animals must not be loaded unless they are under veterinary direction and for veterinary diagnosis, care or treatment.  In such a case, a veterinarian would typically be called to the site or provide detailed instructions regarding the care of the animal prior to movement to maximize its wellbeing during transport.  To move unfit animals without veterinary direction regarding appropriate care and handling would cause pain and suffering to the animal and could lead to enforcement action.  It is important to note that animals that become unfit as per Section 136 (1) (a-h and q) only while in transit cannot be unloaded while conscious unless under veterinary direction for care.  It is necessary to follow the instructions as per Section 141 (1)-(6).  The following are examples of the most frequently observed conditions leading to a finding of unfit and a prohibition to load:

  • Non ambulatory: refers to an animal that is unable or unwilling to rise or walk unassisted.  An animal that cannot rise, remain standing, or walk unassisted cannot be loaded If it becomes non ambulatory while in transit, the transporter must take appropriate action as indicated in section 141 (3)-(5).
  • Fracture: an animal with a fracture to the pelvis, limb or any other fracture that will impact its mobility or is likely to cause severe pain when the animal is handled or transported.  If a fracture occurs and is likely to result in pain and suffering while in transit the transporter must take appropriate action as indicated in section 141 (3)-(5).
  • Lame/reluctant to walk: as opposed to slightly lame (see compromised) an animal that is reluctant to walk and exhibits halted movement due to lameness and/or can't bear weight on any leg cannot be loaded.  If an animal becomes lame or non-weight bearing or exhibits halted movements while in transit, the transporter must take appropriate action as indicated in section 141 (3)-(5).
  • Hobbled to treat an injury: hobbles can be used to prevent splaying or to restrict stride length linked to hip or pelvic issues.  If hobbles are used to treat or prevent an injury, the animal is to be considered unfit for the purposes of transport, even if the hobbles effectively prevent the animal from suffering.  Hobbles restrict an animal's ability to balance and navigate ramps, chutes and are used in this case to treat or prevent an underlying condition which renders the animal unfit.
  • Porcine stress: pigs can be easily stressed when handled and susceptibility to porcine stress syndrome (stressed hog) is variable. Any pig that is found trembling, having any form of breathing difficulty (e.g. open-mouth breathing, panting, or gasping); or any degree of patchy discoloration to the skin (e.g. blotchy skin - irregular skin blanching and erythema), refusing to move (with no other visible abnormalities) is to be considered unfit and not to be loaded or moved. If any pig develops any of the described signs while in transit, the transporter must take appropriate action as indicated in section 141 (3)-(5).
  • In shock, dying, prolapsed uterus, severe wound: These are extreme conditions where animals cannot be loaded. If uncertain regarding wound severity, it is best to obtain veterinary opinion.  If in doubt do not load.
  • Extremely thin: The difference between an animal that is thin to the degree that it is visibly noticeable but does not affect its ability to tolerate the rigors of transport and an animal that is extremely thin to the degree that it is emaciated and unfit for transport is easily determined by most persons involved in preparing and loading animals for transport.  An animal that is extremely thin to the degree that it would be unable to withstand transport is indicative of either chronic disease or profound neglect and must not be transported.  If the body condition is in doubt, it is advisable to obtain prompt veterinary care or handle as for unfit in section 141(1)(2)(4) and do not load.
  • Dehydrated: Dehydrated animals have sunken eyes (mild to severe depending on the degree) and skin that loses its ability to return to normal position if tented (gently lifted and released: return to normal position slightly to profoundly prolonged).  Animals can become dehydrated due to restricted access to water or due to a medical issue that prevents them from drinking effectively (e.g. foreign body or tumor in mouth or throat) or due to excessive fluid loss (e.g. kidney failure or diarrhea).  It is necessary to ensure that animals being assessed for fitness prior to transport be well hydrated and able to remain so for the intended duration of time without water.  High heat and humidity may lead to dehydration even in fit animals and may shorten the maximum intervals found in section 159.1(2).  If you are uncertain whether an animal is dehydrated or needs more frequent access to water than most, consult a veterinarian.  If in doubt, do not load.
  • Hypothermic or Hyperthermic: animals have a body temperature range in which they are comfortable and don't need to expend energy to maintain their temperature.  If above or below that zone they must expend energy (e.g. panting, shivering, etc.).  When they are no longer able to maintain their body temperature they begin to lose the ability for normal metabolic functions.  Animals can become hypothermic or hyperthermic due to illness or exposure to very cold or very hot extremes respectively.  If held at these extremes overly long periods they can suffer and die.  If an animal is hypothermic or hyperthermic prior to loading, the animal is considered to be unfit for loading.  If it becomes so during a transport, it is considered unfit for continued transport and must be treated as indicated in section 141(3)(4).
  • Nervous system disorder: animals with evidence of a disorder of the brain, spinal cord, may exhibit any number of signs that are suggestive of poor coordination, lack of balance, head tilt, bizarre behaviors, seizures, etc.  These animals are considered unfit for loading.  Consult a veterinarian.
  • Fever: a fever is a body temperature that exceeds normal baseline body temperature for the animal as a result of infection or inflammation.  Although small fluctuations can be attributed to the increased anxiety of handling and loading, a sustained elevation in body temperature is a concern.
  • Large hernia: animals can have large hernias (abdominal contents that are present in an out pocketing of the skin) that affect the animal's well-being.  A hernia that is of a size such that it affects the way an animal walks (e.g. hind leg of the animal touches the hernia when the animal is walking); painful to the animal when touched; is of a size that it approaches the ground when standing; that has an area of open wound, ulceration and/or infection causes an animal to be considered unfit for transport.  These animals cannot be loaded.  Hernias can worsen when animals are pushed and pressed against other animals or are otherwise subjected to stresses.
  • Last 10% of gestation or has given birth within the preceding 48 hours:  The timing of the breeding and the calculation of the last 10% against the average time of gestation for the species will provide this information in most cases.  However in cases where exact time of breeding is unknown or an animal shows evidence of impending birth, it is necessary to be aware of the signs of late stage gestation for the species in question. Persons involved in the transport of animals in the last 10% of gestation, whether directly or indirectly, may be subject to enforcement action.
  • Any other condition: Under section 136 definition of unfit (r) is a general overarching description that could include any condition that would lead to suffering if the animal were to be loaded, including those listed under the same definition – unfit (a) through (q).  If in doubt whether an animal is compromised, unfit, or can be unloaded without suffering the regulated party is encouraged to assume that it is unfit and unable to be unloaded while conscious.

Section 136(2): loading and unloading

Loading: in the case of non-crated animals, begins when the first animal is handled with the intent of placing it in a conveyance for the purposes of transport, or in the case of crated animals with the intent of placing it into a container for the purposes of transport.

Loading ends when the last animal to be transported in the conveyance is placed on the conveyance or in the case of animals transported in containers when the last container is placed on the conveyance.

Unloading: in the case of non-crated animals, begins when the first animal is handled with the intent of removing it from the conveyance and ends when the last animal is no longer on the conveyance or any unloading apparatus (e.g. ramp).  In the case of crated animals, unloading begins when the container is handled to be removed from the conveyance and ends when the last animal is removed from the container.

Note: for those remaining in crates for the purposes of gas stunning, unloading ends when the last crate from the load enters the gas stunner.

Additional definitions: For further definitions, the reader is encouraged to access the Health of Animals Act.

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