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Secretary's manual (page 3 of 9)

Animal Pedigree Act Secretary's Manual - Table of Contents

Breeds under the Animal Pedigree Act

The Animal Pedigree Act requires that an association be incorporated in respect of a distinct breed "only if the Minister is satisfied that the breed is a breed determined in accordance with scientific genetic principles."

In 1974, the Department of Agriculture created an Advisory Committee with responsibility to establish criteria for the eligibility of new breeds of livestock in Canada. The Committee suggested that new breeds be accepted which met the following criteria:

A population of animals propagated within a pedigree barrier which produces progeny possessing both a good degree of genetic stability as evidenced by phenotypic uniformity and performance levels for one or more economically important traits that offers a meaningful advance over breeds already recognized and/or established.

The key consideration for a distinct breed is the requirement for genetic stability. In practice, this requires that the pedigree background as well as the phenotypic (observed) characteristics of multiple generations can be assessed. Therefore, consistent with genetic principles, a distinct breed is a group of animals all coming from a common foundation population which exhibit recognizable breed characteristics in a uniform fashion.

Foundation stock

Foundation stock animals are referred to in the Animal Pedigree Act as being, "in relation to a distinct breed, [means] such animals as are recognized by the Minister as constituting the breed's original stock."

The starting basis of a sound registry system is twofold.

First, the foundation or original stock must be defined. In practice, each breed represented by an association under the Animal Pedigree Act should have a physical description which establishes a minimum requirement or range for specific distinguishing characteristics of the breed. On this basis, the animals which meet the criteria are selected and constitute the foundation stock for a newly-recognized breed in Canada. Where established registries exist elsewhere in the world for a particular breed, it may be desirable to treat its registered population prior to a fixed date as the foundation population (see Chapter 4 - Recognition of Foreign Registries).

Second, all registered animals must show a relationship to the foundation population. A registry is really a pedigree tracking system in which rules of eligibility are applied. Under the Animal Pedigree Act no animal may be declared purebred if it does not carry at least 7/8ths relationship back to the original foundation stock or to other registered purebreds of that breed. To register animals which are less than purebred, the association must indicate in its by-laws the definition of purebred and must issue certificates which specify the percentage purebred. In essence, by defining the foundation population and ensuring that all registered animals trace back to them, assurance is given that progeny will exhibit the expected standard characteristics of the breed. [Note: In other countries, registries may not always apply rules of eligibility that enforce relationship back to a common foundation and/or apply breed standard requirements. In such cases it may be more appropriate to refer to them as books of record rather than as registries in order to distinguish the two.]

Breed standards

Breed standards in a registry are those characteristics that give recognition to a breed. They are largely applied to traits of physical appearance and visual distinctiveness. Breed standards in respect of registry systems should refer to the range of trait expression considered acceptable for the breed rather than to the ideal animal. Breed standards may include certain performance characteristics and can also be expressed to include or exclude specific genetic conditions. For example, the breed standards for a breed of cattle such as Angus may require the polled condition, or absence from certain genetic disorders.

Breed standards are the basis for recognition of the initial foundation stock of a distinct breed under the Animal Pedigree Act. This is the case for either a breed newly imported to Canada or a breed which has been newly evolved. Adherence to specific breed standards may continue to be enforced through application of rules of eligibility for registration. This is especially common in newly established breeds so that selection pressure gets directed towards helping generate a more uniform breed population. Use of rules of eligibility to enforce breed standards is not as common for well established breeds when they are already considered to be adequately uniform and stable. Enforcing pedigree background may be the only criterion needed for eligibility for registration. This allows relatively more selection pressure to be put on economically important performance traits.

However, where grading-up is permitted, breed associations should be especially attentive to ensuring that breed standards are not compromised through low-level introduction of characteristics from other breeds. For example, it may be necessary for an association to re-introduce rules of eligibility which exclude certain colour variants from the population. Breed standards give uniqueness and recognition to a breed and are important to a registry and to producers of seedstock.

Evolving breeds

The Animal Pedigree Act also allows recording of animals evolving towards a new breed. Typically, selected parental stock are mated to produce a first generation cross (F1) and each successive generation is inter se mated (amongst each other). In the process, selection pressure is put on the evolving breed by removing those animals which do not conform to the established breed characteristics. Animals which do conform are promoted as parents of the next generation. After a number of generations of such breeding, a genetically stable population is eventually achieved which exhibits a uniform set of characteristics or breed standards. These can then be considered as foundation stock for a distinct breed. Development of a new breed can take many routes. The following is a stylised diagram showing development from an evolving to a distinct breed.

See image description below

Parental Stock - starting genetic resources.

Parental stock may be from several established breeds, a line(s) of animals within a breed having distinct characteristics, a population of animals bred in isolation, etc. Choosing the correct parental stock is critical to the outcome of new breed development, trying to seek the correct mix of adequate genetic variability for performance (marketable or economic) traits and enough uniformity for breed standard characteristics.


  1. Restrict parental stock to those animals having desirable traits which are expected to contribute positively to the net merit of the new breed.
  2. Ensure a sufficiently broad genetic base with enough genetic variability to permit breed improvement.
  3. The new breed should be unique to others in the species; therefore, choose parental stock which collectively have those characteristics already and avoid those with characteristics which will require excessive culling to remove.

Evolving Breed

This is the population of animals deriving initially from the parental stock, mated amongst each other and which possess increasing similarity. Each generation should be culled according to increasingly rigorous standards. By the third and fourth generations there should be obvious genetic stability with respect to the target breed standards, but it may also depend on the traits chosen. Generations F1, F2, ... refer to the first, second, etc. filial generations following the parental generation. Filial generations are numbered as one higher than the lowest parent generation. Some examples follow;

F3 x F3 --> F4
F1 x F2 --> F2
F1 x F4 --> F2
Purebred x F2 --> F3

[This combination possible once recognized as a distinct breed.]

Foundation Stock

Depending on which traits are chosen to be the defining breed characteristics, this is the population selected to become the foundation for a new distinct breed. For example, highly heritable traits may achieve reasonable genetic stability within three generations while lowly heritable traits may take five or more generations. The number of generations will also be influenced by how genetically variable the initial parental stock are, the degree to which undesirable traits need to be culled out of the population, and the intensity of selection applied in each succeeding generation. Application must be made to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for a group of animals to be recognized as foundation stock for a new distinct breed.

Optional structures for breed associations


The Animal Pedigree Act allows for incorporation of breed associations (animal pedigree associations). The main purpose of an association is the registration of animals and keeping of pedigrees. This entails maintaining a central registry for pedigree information, issuing certificates of registration (or certificates of identification for evolving breeds) and establishing breed standards and rules of eligibility. Approval is given to associations where it is expected that the keeping of pedigrees and other records of a breed "would be beneficial to the breeders and to the public-at-large."

Applicants must also be able to demonstrate that they "represent the breeders throughout Canada" of the breed in respect of which they are seeking incorporation. In order to be able to function in a democratic fashion, they must be able to demonstrate they can represent the majority of breeders and also address the concerns of the minority. Breed associations are not exclusive clubs. They are non-profit corporations which are federally mandated to administer the affairs of their breed in Canada in a democratic fashion and in accordance with the Act, their articles of incorporation and their by-laws.

Incorporation under the Animal Pedigree Act

The Animal Pedigree Act was established to meet the needs of animal breeders desiring to standardize the recording and representation of pedigrees on animals going back into the breeding population. It is not mandatory that breed associations be incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act, but it addresses some particular needs of the breeding industry. There are also other statutes under which associations may incorporate and other alternatives though, some of which are discussed below.

In general, the legal process of incorporation confers upon an association many of the same rights and obligations as a person. It may enter into contracts, own land and other properties in its own name, and sue or be sued in the courts. As with other corporations, breed association members have limited liability. Financial liability of members is limited to the amount of fees due the association. Directors, officers and employees are also not personally liable for actions taken on behalf of the association, when done in good faith. A general benefit of an incorporated body is that it can carry on as a legal entity even after the founding members depart.

What are the advantages of incorporation under the Animal Pedigree Act?

  1. All associations must meet minimum requirements for establishment of rules of procedure, membership, public representation of animals, definition of purebred, etc. [see section 15 of the Act]
  2. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada must review and approve any by-law changes before they come into effect. The review process helps ensure consistency with the Act and other by-laws, and helps breed associations develop clear and workable by-laws.
  3. Recourse to the Canadian legal system for enforcement of the offences section of the Act. The offences under the Act are for the most part unique, and allow action to be taken in instances additional to those, for example, under the Criminal Code. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police provide enforcement for the Act. [Note: Canadian law applies only within Canadian boundaries.] Additional enforcement provisions are contained in the Act whereby the Minister may request an inspection or inquiry if deemed necessary. Breed associations are primarily responsible for enforcement of their own by-laws.
  4. Only one association in Canada may establish a definition of purebred, maintain a public registry and issue certificates in respect of a breed. This allows the association to present a public image of the breed which is consistent throughout Canada.

What if associations are not incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act?

  1. If a breed is not recognized under the Animal Pedigree Act then it is possible for any group of breeders to apply to be incorporated for the purpose of representing that breed. [see section 2.3 - Incorporating a New Breed Association]
  2. If the breed is not recognized under the Animal Pedigree Act then anyone can print certificates, keep pedigree records purportedly for the breed, declare animals purebred, etc. No single standard is necessary.
  3. Without an association incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act there no recourse to the law for violations of rules regarding pedigree recording and public representation of pedigrees as embodied in sections 63 to 67 of the Act.
  4. Without a standard recognized body, exports may be more difficult. For example, the European Union (EU) has established a directive for the importation of breeding stock. Breed associations incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act are recognized by the EU.

What are some alternatives to incorporation of a new breed association under the Animal Pedigree Act?

Some groups are too small to incur the overhead that comes with meeting the requirements needed to maintain a national association. Some have little interest in breed standards, breed improvement or selling animals as breeding stock and simply want to keep animals as commercial animals or as pets. Others prefer to maintain proprietary control of all breeding animals and standards and are not interested in a democratically operated national organisation. The Animal Pedigree Act may or may not be appropriate in these cases. The following are some alternatives:

  1. The Animal Pedigree Act established a General Stud and Herd Book which is maintained by Canadian Livestock Records Corporation for breeds where no association exists. This option is primarily intended for instances in which there are only small numbers of registrations per year. However, the necessary conditions must first exist for the breed to be recognized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada under the Act.
  2. The Canada Corporations Act (for non-profit corporations) and the Canada Business Corporations Act (for for-profit corporations) are administered by Industry Canada and allow incorporation for business purposes. Provincial options exist as well.
  3. Finally, registration may have no benefit for some. Registration is voluntary. If it does not enhance the worth of the animals or their progeny then serious consideration may need to be given to dropping entirely the concept of registration. For those who still like the concept of a certificate to identify an animal, but without all the attendant obligations that come with registration, there are alternative services available for non-recognized breeds.

Options under the Animal Pedigree Act

For breeds that may come under the Act, there are numerous options for an association to consider. Some of these are outlined below.

Single vs. Multiple Breed Association

The Act permits breed associations to represent either a single breed or multiple breeds of the same species. An association's Articles of Incorporation designate the breeds which it is authorized to represent. Amendment of Articles of Incorporation to add or remove a breed requires the membership to be consulted in writing (see sections 20 and 21 of the Act). A minimum 25% response is required and 2/3rds majority of those responding must be in favour of the change. The Act also allows for merging of associations, splitting into separate entities or dissolution.

The most obvious advantage of having a single association to represent multiple breeds is that overhead costs can be reduced per unit of business by sharing administration. There may be other benefits such as more effective sharing of ideas, research and market development efforts. The disadvantages of representing multiple breeds are that the governance structure can be more complicated, and if not managed effectively, complaints can arise that too much time or resources are spent on one breed(s).

Some existing multiple breed associations incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act are the Canadian Kennel Club, Canadian Sheep Breeders Association, Canadian Swine Breeders Association, and the Canadian Goat Society.

Distinct vs. Evolving Breed

When the revised Animal Pedigree Act came into effect in 1988 it included for the first time a category to recognize evolving breeds.

A distinct breed must be essentially a genetically stable population with a common origin and history. Certificates of Registration may be issued and a definition of purebred established for the breed. Foundation stock are the original stock recognized of a distinct breed. All other purebred animals must be able to demonstrate relationship to the foundation stock or to other purebred animals on their certificates. Animals of a distinct breed which do not meet the criteria for recognition as purebred may only be issued certificates which indicate the percentage purebred.

An evolving breed has either not reached the point of being genetically stable or for lack of evidence it cannot be confirmed. Since the essence of a registry system is that it allows consistent tracking and reporting of pedigrees which improves confidence in the genetic outcome of specific matings, evidence of genetic stability across generations is critical. Under the Animal Pedigree Act, an evolving breed can be formally recognized and Certificates of Identification may be issued. Once adequate information has accumulated and there is evidence of genetic stability, an association may request that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada recognize the breed as a distinct breed.

Registry Operated by Association, Canadian Livestock Records Corporation, or Another Association

Anyone who has tried to trace their family tree knows that registry information can quickly become very complicated. Beyond a few hundred animals, tracking of pedigree information becomes an extremely onerous task and needs to be computerized. The nature of the information collected demands consistent verification usually requiring sophisticated software and regular maintenance and upgrading. This requires a financial investment but also a reasonable degree of competence of registrars to ensure the integrity of the database. The Animal Pedigree Act allows three alternatives for operation of registries.

  1. A registry may be operated directly by the breed association authorized to represent the breed under the Act. The registrar is directly responsible to the association and manages the registry in accordance with the by-laws and the policy and procedures established by the association.
  2. An association may become a member of the Canadian Livestock Records Corporation (CLRC). The CLRC was established as a statutory corporation in 1988 (founded in 1905) and maintains registries for over half of all the incorporated breed associations. In addition to maintaining registries, the CLRC is equipped to provide other services required by breed associations.
  3. An association may authorize another breed association (also operating under the Animal Pedigree Act) to register animals on behalf of and in accordance with the rules of the association incorporated in respect of the breed.

Seedstock vs. Commercial

Should a breed association register just purebred seedstock or animals destined for non-breeding use as well? The Act was established for the purpose of enabling breed associations to set up registries for recording pedigrees of animals intended for breeding purposes. However, the actual seedstock population in almost every species is relatively small, especially given the use of modern reproductive techniques. This makes it critical for the services of breed associations to be seen as useful to a wider population. Depending on the species, commercial usage may include meat production, wool, fur or fibre production, draft, use for pet or recreational purposes, or for racing. Whatever the end use, the commercial market should be the ultimate beneficiary of a credible registry system.

There are a number of ways in which breed associations have adapted their registries to apply or be attractive to a wider population.

  1. Inclusion of performance information into registry databases and on certificates.
  2. Enhanced collective reputation of purebred breeders. This may be due to extra service provided by member breeders, healthy and productive animals, marketing efforts of the breed association, links to international sources of seedstock, etc.
  3. Participation of breed associations in key activities of use to commercial markets. These may include performance competitions (eg. bull tests, racing, eventing), judging, training, etc. Many breed associations have been successful in having possession of registration certificates made mandatory for participating in these events.
  4. Expansion of the registry to include part-bred or percentage animals where these animals are important in the commercial markets. The Act allows issuance of certificates for animals which are less than purebred so long as the certificates indicate the percent purebred.

Registries generally function as tracking systems for pedigrees of animals that are potentially to be incorporated back into the breeding population. Other animals not used to produce seedstock technically do not need to be registered. However, registration of commercial animals may be attractive depending on how successful an association has been at expanding the appeal of its services and its reputation as a purveyor or guarantor of animals which meet the needs of the market.

Registry vs. Breed Improvement

The first purpose of the Animal Pedigree Act is to promote breed improvement. A registry can be useful to breed improvement programs by ensuring the accuracy and completeness of pedigree records. However, associations can also add value to their pedigrees by recording performance information. This can be used for genetic evaluation and selection and incorporated into registration certificates. Many associations have a long history of performance recording. Others are less familiar with the benefits and have not realized the full potential of the pedigree information they have collected. Registries and breed improvement are complementary.

Incorporating a new breed association

The Animal Pedigree Act

The Animal Pedigree Act received royal assent on May 25th, 1988 and replaces the former Livestock Pedigree Act.

The stated purposes of the Animal Pedigree Act are,

  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.

According to the Act,

The principal purpose of animal pedigree associations shall be the registration and identification of animals and the keeping of animal pedigrees.

These stated purposes express the ultimate authority assigned to the Animal Pedigree Act under which breed associations may be incorporated and exercise their power. Any associations wishing to be incorporated under the Act must demonstrate their activities will be consistent with these purposes.

Considerations for Incorporation

Section 8 of the Animal Pedigree Act sets out the requirements for submission of articles of incorporation. There are no regulations specifying the prescribed form in which articles must be submitted. All the information required under section 8 must be provided, but applicants should contact the Animal Registration Officer to determine whether more specific guidelines may exist. In addition to the specific requirements under section 8 needed for applications, section 6 stipulates requirements which must be met to the satisfaction of the Minister before incorporation. Re-stated here, the requirements are as follows:

  1. Each breed must be defined in accordance with scientific genetic principles either as a distinct or evolving breed:
    1. For each distinct breed it must be clearly demonstrated how the breed is distinct and recognizable.
    2. For each evolving breed a clear description of the physical resemblance and genetic makeup of what it is intended to evolve into, must be provided. There should also be evidence that the creation, with genetic stability, of the new breed is possible. This will be judged on the basis of known genetic principals and reproductive plans;
    3. To be recognized as a distinct breed, there must be demonstration of:
      • a foundation population of animals under inter se breeding having no amount of outcrossing greater than 1/8th;
      • pedigree information for foundation animals with evidence they meet the minimum breed description requirements, and demonstrated genetic stability across no fewer than 3 generations.
  2. An explanation must also be provided to show to the Minister:
    1. in what way each new breed could be considered of significant value or useful;
    2. in what way the keeping of pedigrees and other records for this breed would benefit breeders and the public-at-large;
    3. that the effective foundation population of the breed(s) being represented is adequate to permit the first purpose of the Act, namely breed improvement, to be achieved. Factors that may be taken into account include the effective population size, number of bloodlines represented, degree of inbreeding, reproductive isolation and the genetic health of the population.
  3. An association must demonstrate that it represents breeders throughout Canada. This may be done by placement of advertisements in publications giving notice of intent to incorporate a Canadian association under the Animal Pedigree Act in respect of a new breed(s). Comments or expressions of interest should be requested. These may be reviewed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
  4. Applicants for incorporation of an association must number at least five qualified persons, being at least eighteen years of age and being Canadian citizens or permanent residents within the meaning of the Immigration Act, 1976.
  5. The Articles of Incorporation must follow the requirements of section 8 of the Animal Pedigree Act. This includes submission in triplicate of articles with the name of the association, names and addresses of the applicants, first directors and officers, and the name of the breed(s). Applicants should first contact the Animal Registration Officer regarding specific details of the application. Following incorporation, the association will be given one year in which to submit by-laws.
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