Secretary's manual (page 2 of 9)

Animal Pedigree Act Secretary's Manual - Table of Contents


Definitions and interpretations

The Animal Pedigree Act is a federal statute which establishes the broad legal framework under which breed associations (animal pedigree associations) may be established. Breed associations are corporate entities which derive their legal authority from the Animal Pedigree Act. Breed associations are established with respect to distinct and/or evolving breeds.

The Act contains an interpretation section which should be used to understand terminology in the Act itself (see also Glossary of Terms, chapter 8 of this manual). However, acts also need to be interpreted in their entirety. Likewise, by-laws and procedures need definition and interpretation. How do we arrive at definitions? Definitions may be derived initially from the Act itself but usually are fleshed out through experience and with input from many sources. Definitions are important because they help establish standards and limits by which activities may be measured.

In general, statutory provisions are given their ordinary meaning where possible. For breed associations seeking to clarify interpretations and define terminology there are numerous sources of information. The following categories are not intended to be exhaustive. They are sources of information which are in addition to the Act itself and may help with its interpretation.


Many acts of parliament are clarified through enactment of regulations. Currently, the Animal Pedigree Act has no regulations which help define terms. The only regulation which currently applies to the Act is one which details procedures for winding down breed associations. Other acts and regulations, such as the Interpretation Act or the Health of Animals Act and its regulations, may be relevant in certain cases.

Legislative intent

Legislation does not generally seek to specify every detail but rather is intended by the legislators to embody certain purposes, priorities and limits. The purposes of the Act (section 3) and the role of associations (section 4) establish the overall intent. However, at times it may be difficult to discern the intent of specific provisions. In addition, legislation cannot anticipate every eventuality relating to activities carried out under its authority. There may even be inconsistencies, vagueness or gaps which are not recognized until later. The legislative process involves interaction of many people including extensive consultation with industry groups. Therefore, interpretation is often aided by understanding the historical context in which the legislation was developed.

Common administrative practices

The Animal Pedigree Act is administered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the office of the Animal Registration Officer. In the course of administration, recommendations are made to the Minister, or other delegated authority, primarily for the purpose of approving amendments to by-laws. The Department exercises a limited supervisory role over associations but is available to serve in an advisory capacity. Administrators of the Act also interact with and advise others including bodies developing government policy and legislation, administrators of other federal statutes, related international bodies and non-governmental organisations. Every effort is made to ensure consistency not only among breed associations, but elsewhere as well.

Common industry practice and usage

Common practice usually develops through experience and common sense. Common practices change over time though, often enhanced by technological developments and scientific understanding. To facilitate understanding of special terms and new technology, the opening sections of the by-laws and/or policy and procedures manual may be organized to include definition of terms which will be used throughout the document. Special attention must also be given to changes in international practices which may affect trade in breeding stock.

Democratic processes

The Animal Pedigree Act requires that breed associations specify certain procedures in their by-laws regarding democratic processes. The by-laws should also be written in plain language and be accessible to all members. In addition to establishing rules in the by-laws, there are other important means by which associations can guarantee that the will of the majority is carried out while still hearing and respecting the minority. Guidelines on rules of order are available for reference to assist in ensuring a democratic process is followed. Federal and provincial departments also publish guidelines which can be useful to assist in the administrative process. Every association should specify what guidelines shall be used when their own by-laws, rules and procedures are silent on matters relating to the democratic process. A well-defined democratic process should help breed associations avoid almost all recourse to the judicial system. [see Chapter 3 - The Democratic Process]

Legal opinion

Administrators of federal statutes are aided by the federal Department of Justice from which legal opinion is obtained for internal use. However, individual breed associations may from time to time need to seek their own legal counsel. Legal opinion is generally bounded by the accepted system of laws in Canada and the provinces, by interpretation of statutes relating to a particular issue, by provisions of the Canadian constitution including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and by legal precedent. Breed associations should be cautious about trying to be their own lawyers where contentious issues are involved.

Court judgement

Legal opinion is learned opinion, not law. If an issue can not be resolved by the parties involved it may eventually end up in a court of law. This is generally an expensive process. However, court judgements must be honoured and can sometimes help elucidate what is permitted or not under the Animal Pedigree Act and the by-laws of an association.
Finally, interpretation may be aided by use of dictionaries, scientific writings, policy directives or guidelines, etc.

Explanation of terms for breed associations

By-laws, policy and procedures can not be developed in isolation. In fact, given the changing nature of the business it is usually necessary to amend the by-laws regularly and do a complete review of the by-laws every five to ten years. Following are a few explanations of terminology which may help breed associations develop consistent definitions. These are guidelines only.

Breed standard

This term is used in several ways, and none all too consistently.

  1. in breed registries - breed standards are the essential trademark characteristics of a breed such as colour and coat pattern, horns,size, conformation, etc. Additional breed standards may include performance characteristics such as growth rate or milk production. These may be incorporated into the rules of ligibility for registration.
  2. in judging - breed standards have been used as equivalent to a 'standard of perfection' , 'true type' or 'ideal' for the breed.
  3. in extension and field use - breed standards are expressed in terms of the average and range of characteristics that can be expected.

(Distinct) breed

A breed is a population of animals with a common history and origin. There is not a standard definition to which everyone would agree. However, two important characteristics are that they must have unique distinguishing characteristics and be genetically stable from generation to generation.

Evolving breed

This is a population of animals which is not yet genetically stable. To be recognized under the Act an evolving breed should have a defined parental population, established breed standards towards which selection will be directed, and a breeding plan to get there.


Refers to the process of consecutively breeding animals towards a purebred status. Animals which are registered as purebreds are mated to animals of other breeds or of crossbred or uncertain genetic origin (grade animals). A first mating gives 50%, second mating 75% and so on.

Parentage verification

Refers to laboratory tests by which animals are compared to their parents. Tests determine if an animal can be included or excluded as a possible parent. An animal's parentage can never be confirmed 100%, but individuals can be excluded as possible parents with a very high degree of accuracy. Tests are based on the fact that each parent contributes a random 50% of an animal's genetic makeup. Genes don't come from anywhere else.

Verification may be based on techniques such as blood typing or DNA typing (eg. fingerprinting, microsatellite analysis). Use of DNA typing is generally more accurate since it is based on direct comparison of the genetic code of an animal rather than the products of its genes.

[Note: Certain conditions may influence the accuracy of parentage verification such as multiparous births, multiple fertilization, and transgenic manipulation. If any of these cases are suspect then the labs responsible for testing should be informed. Random mutations also take place in populations but generally at low levels not expected to interfere with parentage verification. Other congenital anomalies may arise in the developmental genetic stage but generally do not play a role in animal genetics and should not influence standard parentage verification.]


This is the ancestral lineage of an animal, starting with its parents, grandparents, etc. The pedigree of an animal is its family tree.

History of federal legislation for breed associations

The Act in Canada

The Act respecting the incorporation of Live Stock Record Associations was first passed by Parliament in 1900. It became known as the Livestock Pedigree Act. At that time Canada was a young and growing country with a rapidly expanding agricultural sector. New breeding stock were being brought into the country in record numbers. The concept of recording pedigrees of animals was still relatively new, but had been developing for some time, especially in Great Britain and the United States. There were even a number of breed associations already established or being considered in Canada.

To bring a degree of order and protection to the livestock industry some provinces introduced laws in the mid to late 1800's regarding the marking and branding of animals. Other provincial acts were passed to encourage the improvement and importation of new breeds and to control the movement of breeding animals. However, there remained concern about the lack of standardization and control regarding sale of breeding stock and how they were represented.

Purpose of pedigree recording

Pedigree recording started from the simple observation that "like begets like". The fact that progeny tend to resemble their parents has been recognized at least since biblical times. New ideas began to take hold around the 1700s when certain prominent breeders in Great Britain, demonstrated that knowledge of pedigrees could be employed to breed animals more consistently. By restricting the breeding of animals to only those possessing greater similarity and merit in specific traits, the progeny outcome was more uniform. More predictable matings are more useful and hence profitable. From there, breed societies developed out of a desire to ensure specific rules would be followed to further the development of consistently meritorious animals. This is how many of our modern day breeds began. For breed associations to successfully enhance the worth of their animals it was necessary to ensure that some basic rules would be followed. Nevertheless, at the turn of the century the whole concept of genetic inheritance and breed improvement was still a rather mysterious affair. It was more art than science. Not until the early part of the 1900s when the findings of Gregor Mendel were rediscovered and the theories of Charles Darwin began to gain prominence was it recognized that there might be a stronger scientific basis to breed improvement than originally thought. So while animal husbandry was recognized as the art of skilfully managing animals, at least a part of that management began to be seen as having a predictable scientific basis, termed breed improvement.

Why federal legislation?

The basis for having a federal act under which breed associations can operate is largely twofold. First, the keeping of accurate pedigree information on a national basis is considered critical to the improvement of animal breeds and livestock in general. Second, the establishment of consistent national standards for representation of an animal's genetic background increases the integrity of the information for domestic and foreign trade purposes and provides protection to buyers of breeding stock. It is perhaps important to note that the Animal Pedigree Act was designed primarily to control representation of animals which are going back into the national breeding populations.

The purposes of the revised Act (1988) are stated as follows:

  1. to promote breed improvement, and
  2. to protect persons who raise and purchase animals by providing for the establishment of animal pedigree associations that are authorized to register and identify animals that, in the opinion of the Minister, have significant value.

The new Act came into effect May 25, 1988 and represented a major change over previous versions. The Livestock Pedigree Act was last amended in 1952. It focussed primarily on the establishment of breed associations and ensuring a single national authority especially regarding registry activities. The new Act has now also more clearly defined the genetic ground rules for those activities and incorporated new ideas and knowledge relevant to the breeding sector.

Between the years 1952 and 1988, there were significant advances in understanding of the genetics of individuals and of populations. In the 1960s and 1970s many new breeds were introduced to Canada and were often used to grade-up existing populations using reproductive techniques such as artificial insemination or embryo transfer. The field of genetic evaluation flourished and irrevocably moved animal breeding from an art to a science. The Act had to be adapted to properly reflect these changes.

Revision of the Act commenced in earnest about 1985 and was completed in 1988 after extensive consultation. Under the revised Act, promotion of breed improvement was set out as the first purpose and numerous definitions were clarified. Evolving breeds were given special recognition and rules for their development established. Notably, recognition of breed associations incorporated in respect of a distinct breed was made contingent on the breed being accepted as "a breed in accordance with scientific genetic principles".

Animal pedigree associations (breed associations) are incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act and given authority to represent a breed(s) wherein animals are intended for breeding purposes. They have sole authority to manage a public registry for the breed, to issue registration certificates, to establish breed standards and rules of eligibility for registration, and define what is a purebred. There are now approximately 80 breed associations incorporated under the Act representing about 350 breeds. It is hoped that this manual will assist breed associations understand how the Animal Pedigree Act works and what their roles are.

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