Livestock and poultry transport in Canada

Make sure animals are fit for the journey

Regulatory guidance and resource documents are designed to help stakeholders interpret and implement the regulations. They provide clarification and examples on what is required of those involved in the transport of animals.

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The requirements for the transport of all animals into, within and out of Canada are found in Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations.

All those involved in transporting animals either directly or indirectly have the responsibility to assess animals for fitness, then select, prepare and load only animals that are fit for the intended journey.

If you are responsible for activities related to the loading, unloading or transporting of animals, you must be familiar with – and follow – Canada's transport of animals regulations.

Enforcement actions are proportional to the animal welfare situation and the seriousness of the non-compliance and can include notices (verbal or written) and penalties (monetary or non-monetary).

Assess before loading animals: Preparation for transport

Only animals that are fit to handle transport may be loaded. If you are not sure, refer to the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) species specific codes of practice or seek the advice of a professional before deciding to load an animal.

Animals must not be transported unless they are fit enough to withstand the entire journey without suffering pain or distress that is caused by, or made worse by, the transport process.

Fit for transport

Animals are fit for transport when there are no signs of illness or poor health. This means:

a fit cow as an example of a fit animal
  • animals are bright, alert, moving and breathing normally
  • animals are in good body condition
  • animals are able to bear weight evenly on all limbs
  • animals are free from signs of disease (for example, normal feces, normal breathing, normal nasal discharges, no unhealed injuries, lesions or wounds)
  • no inside body parts outside
  • not likely to give birth during the journey or be affected by metabolic conditions associated with late pregnancy or birth

Check animals before transport

Click on image for larger view Check animals before transport brochure image. description follows

Check animals before transport

Scenario 1 - If your animal is unfit:

  • It must be isolated in transport, loaded alone without negotiating ramps
  • Measures must be taken to prevent unnecessary suffering and must not go to an assembly centre or an abattoir
  • Under the advice of a veterinarian and to receive veterinary care only

Scenario 2 - If your animal is compromised:

  • It must be isolated in transport, loaded alone without negotiating ramps
  • Measures must be taken to prevent unnecessary suffering and the animal must not go to an assembly centre
  • Seek nearest place the animal can receive care or be humanely killed

Scenario 3 – En route, if you suspect your animal is compromised or unfit:

  • When monitoring the animal en route and it seems OK, continue transport but if the animal seems to be compromised or unfit, options are to humanely kill on truck or to seek the nearest place (including an assembly yard) where the animal can receive care or be humanely killed

Unfit animals: Do not transport

stop sign

Animals that are unfit must not be transported except to receive veterinary care on the advice of a veterinarian.

an example of a sick or dying sheep lying down

Options for unfit animals include:

  • treat and care for on farm
  • humanely kill or slaughter on farm
  • transport directly to a place where they can receive veterinary care
an example of a goat with signs of a broken leg

An animal is unfit for transport if it:

  • is non-ambulatory (cannot walk)
  • has a fracture that impedes mobility or causes it to exhibit signs of pain or suffering
  • is lame enough that it exhibits pain or suffering, halted movements or reluctance to walk
  • is lame to the extent that it cannot walk on all of its legs (non-weight-bearing walking)
  • has sustained an injury and is hobbled for treatment
an example of a very thin horse showing its ribcage
  • is extremely thin
  • is in shock or is dying
  • shows signs of dehydration
  • shows signs of hypothermia or hyperthermia
  • shows signs of a fever
  • shows signs of a generalized nervous system disorder
  • has laboured breathing
  • has a severe open wound or a severe laceration
  • has a navel with delayed healing or infection
an example of a sheep having difficulty breathing
an example of a cow with a cancerous eye and an inflamed udderan example of a cow with signs of swelling and bloating
  • has a gangrenous udder
  • has severe squamous cell carcinoma of the eye
  • is bloated to the extent that it exhibits signs of pain or weakness
  • is in the last 10% of pregnancy or has given birth during the last 48 hours
  • has a prolapsed uterus or a severe rectal or severe vaginal prolapse
  • has a hernia that:
    • impedes its movement, including when a hind limb touches the hernia as the animal is walking
    • causes the animal to show signs of pain or suffering
    • touches the ground when the animal is standing in its natural position or
    • has an open wound, ulceration or obvious infection
  • is a trembling pig, with difficulty breathing and discoloured skin
  • shows signs of exhaustion
  • shows any other signs of infirmity, illness, injury or a condition that indicates that it cannot be transported without suffering
an example of a pig with a hernia

Compromised animals: transport only with special provisions


Compromised animals do not handle the stress of transportation well.

Take steps to prevent additional injury or suffering caused by transportation. Transporting a compromised animal without meeting the regulatory requirements violates Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations. For example:

  • transport only short distances to get care, treatment, to be humanely killed or slaughtered
  • transport to the closest slaughter facility or consider on-site humane killing
  • compromised animals cannot be transported to assembly centres (for example, auction markets and assembly yards)

An animal is considered compromised if it:

  • is lame other than in a way that is described in unfit
  • has its mobility limited by a device, including hobbles, other than those applied for treatment
  • is bloated – but is showing no signs of discomfort or weakness
  • has acute frostbite
  • is blind in both eyes
  • is not fully healed after a procedure, including dehorning, detusking or castration
  • has a deformity or fully-healed amputation without signs of pain
  • has an injured penis (unhealed or acute)
  • has a minor rectal or vaginal prolapse
  • is/are a wet bird(s)
  • is in peak lactation period and cannot be milked to prevent engorgement
  • has any other signs of infirmity, illness, injury or of a condition that indicates that it has a reduced capacity to withstand transport

Regulatory requirements for compromised animals include:

  • being isolated from all other animals, or penning with one familiar companion animal during confinement and transport
  • loading and unloading individually (without negotiating ramps inside the conveyance)
  • taking measures to prevent suffering, injury or death
  • transporting directly to the nearest suitable place where the animal can be properly cared for or humanely killed

Examples of measures to care for compromised animals during transport can include:

  • loading last and unloading first
  • providing additional bedding
  • providing water or electrolytes to prevent dehydration
  • providing veterinary care for the specific injury or illness: (for example, pain medication or splints)

An animal that becomes unfit or compromised during transport:

  • must be transported directly to the nearest place where it can receive care or be humanely killed or slaughtered (for example, a veterinary hospital, farm, or slaughter facility)
  • if unfit, must not be unloaded while conscious if the animal cannot walk or stand

Contact your veterinarian, dispatch or the slaughter facility you are transporting to if you are not sure of the special provisions needed to move a compromised animal.

General requirements for the transport of animals

To help protect animals during transport, requirements include:

Configuration of suitable loading facility (for example, side rails, ramp, no gap).
  • having the knowledge, skills and training to transport the specific species:
    • being aware of specific requirements for age, stage of production, species
  • having contingency plans in place to manage:
    • unforeseen delays or circumstances
    • animals that become compromised or unfit during the transport continuum
  • assessing animals for fitness before transport
  • isolating animals that are incompatible with each other
  • monitoring animals and risk factors throughout the transport continuum
  • using loading and unloading ramps and equipment that can bear the weight of the animals, equipped with adequate side rails and a surface that is designed, constructed and maintained to prevent the animals from slipping
  • using containers and transport vehicles designed, constructed and maintained for the animals being transported
  • using appropriate handling aids (for example, pig boards) that do not excite the animal, cause injury or suffering
  • providing adequate space and headroom for animals to be in a natural position and to be able to reposition themselves for balance and safety during transport
    An example of a container with poultry inside to demonstrate proper loading density.
    Proper loading density
    An example of a container with poultry inside to demonstrate it is too crowded.
    Too crowded
  • providing feed, safe water and rest at the required intervals
  • providing adequate ventilation and protection from weather extremes
  • providing protection from exposure to toxic or noxious things
  • providing non-slip, secure footing in containers and conveyances
  • completing required records for each load of animals (date, time when and place where animals were last fed, watered and rested, condition of animals, etc.)


If you are not sure an animal is fit for the trip, contact your veterinarian or a transport specialist, or refer to the NFACC codes of practice.

Visit humane transport and animal welfare or contact your nearest CFIA Area office for more information.

Note: This information is provided for information purposes. The user should consult the applicable legislation. In the event of any discrepancy between the Health of Animals Regulations and the Livestock Transport in Canada Brochure, the Health of Animals Regulations shall prevail.

Checklist for animal transport

  • Knowledge about humane transport of animals
  • Knowledge of the species
  • Knowledge of animal handling
  • Contingency plan
  • Clean equipment/biosecurity
  • Animals assessed prior to transport
  • Assess if special handling is required
  • Consider factors that affect transport:
    • condition of the animal
    • space requirements
    • ventilation
    • secure footing
    • compatibility with others
    • expected time in transport
    • foreseeable delays
    • weather conditions and changes
    • driving conditions
    • type and condition of transport equipment
    • optimal animal handling
  • Plan for animal monitoring plan during transport
  • Records:
    • animal transport record
    • feed, water and rest information
    • transfer of care