In the February issue of the Charities and Not-for-profit Newsletter, we reported on the release by CRA of a draft guidance on the promotion of animal welfare, and when this would be considered to be charitable at law.  On August 19, CRA released the final version of the Guidance, CG-011 Promotion of Animal Welfare and Charitable Registration.

The final Guidance is not identical to the draft released in February, but covers essentially the same ground.  It states that animal welfare organizations seeking charitable registration must establish that they fall within one of the four heads of charity, and notes that such organizations will typically be charitable under one of the following heads:

  • the advancement of education (the second head)
  • other purposes beneficial to the community that are considered charitable at law (the fourth head), and specifically:
  • promoting the moral or ethical development of the community
  • upholding the administration and enforcement of the law
  • protecting the environment
  • promoting agriculture  

The Guidance notes that in order to be registered as a charity, an organization must meet the public benefit test, showing that its purposes deliver a benefit to the public or to a sufficient segment of the public.  It goes on to state that the courts have decided that charitable purposes to promote the welfare of animals meet the public benefit test by providing an intangible moral benefit to humanity as a whole through "the advancement of morals and education among [people]."  As a result, the CRA is able to recognize the act of showing kindness to animals in need of human assistance or care, such as those that are stray, injured, neglected, or abused, as satisfying the public benefit requirement of common law.

The result of this is that animal welfare organizations must focus their efforts on animals in need.  Charities must also avoid providing excessive private benefit through their activities, for example, through the sale of high value animals or by allowing animals to be showcased at commercial public events.  Any private benefits conferred must be minor and incidental.

The Guidance goes on to set out examples of animal welfare activities that will qualify as charitable.

Under advancement of education, this would include:

  • providing courses in animal welfare law;
  • conducting research on predator-prey ratios in given areas or on wild animal populations, their health, or migration habits;
  • offering training in the safe coexistence of humans and wildlife; and
  • conduct research into replacement, reduction, or refinement of the use of animals in scientific experimentation.  

Under the fourth head, other purposes beneficial to the community, charitable purposes would include:

  • Promoting mental or moral health, for example by:
    • operating a non-profit animal hospital;
    • rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals, and returning them to the wild;
    • spaying or neutering domestic pets, feral, or stray animals;
    • rescuing and holding for adoption stray, abandoned, abused, or surrendered animals; offering temporary shelter for the pets of individuals fleeing domestic abuse;
    • providing a sanctuary for aging, dangerous, displaced, unhealthy, or former farm animals that cannot be adopted, returned to the wild, or otherwise released.
  • Upholding the administration and enforcement of the law, for example by:
    • monitoring the practices of zoos and the welfare of zoo animals to determine compliance with relevant laws;
    • investigating and putting illegal dog breeding operations out of operation;
    • observing the transportation of animals, such as companion or agricultural animals, to determine compliance with relevant laws;
    • patrolling communities for violations of existing federal, provincial, or territorial laws, or municipal bylaws.
  • Protecting the environment, for example, through the preservation of an ecosystem and its animals;
  • Promoting agriculture, for example, by breeding livestock.  

Charities or prospective charities engaged in animal welfare work should consult this Guidance carefully to ensure that their purposes and activities are onside CRA policy.  Miller Thomson’s Charities and Not-for-profit lawyers can assist in the registration and ongoing compliance of animal welfare organizations.