Responsible Breeding of Companion Animals

February 1, 2024

This position statement applies to all species of animals being bred as companion animals (including service animals) whether the resulting progeny are considered purebred or crossbred. There may be some aspects that do not apply to all species (e.g., sections on maternal care will not apply to birds or reptiles). This position statement does not apply to the mating of a domesticated species to a wild or undomesticated species (e.g., domestic cat to serval), as the CVMA is opposed to keeping hybrids as pets. (Additional resources (1))


The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supports the breeding of companion animals only when it is undertaken by those who are committed to continual health and welfare improvement, providing a high level of care for the breeding animals and offspring, and supporting the animals’ physical and psychological well-being.

The CVMA opposes the selective breeding of animals resulting in a conformation, function, hereditary trait, or temperament, that is potentially detrimental to the quality of life of the resulting progeny.

The CVMA holds that responsible breeding is a shared duty between those who create demand, breeders who select and care for breeding stock and veterinary professionals who provide care and guidance.


  • Good physical and psychological health of breeding stock is important for the breeding animals and to maximize the likelihood of physically and psychologically healthy offspring.
  • Portrayal of certain breeds in social media, movies and marketing has increased demand for those breeds and resulted in breeding of animals that would otherwise not be selected as breeding stock to meet market demand.
  • Selective breeding of companion animals for physical characteristics considered desirable by the general public has increasingly led to severe health and welfare concerns for animals of several species and breeds.
  • Persons breeding companion animals have a responsibility to the animals and prospective owners to breed and raise animals with the best potential for long-term physical and behavioural health.
  • Tests for heritable conditions common to certain breeds or lines, where available, should be performed on breeding stock prior to first mating. The specific tests performed and their results should be clearly communicated to prospective owners. It is not sufficient to indicate that an animal has been “genetically tested” as this may not be relevant to the tests required for the species and breed in question.
  • Elective and non-therapeutic procedures for cosmetic and competitive purposes should not be performed. Individual animals that require corrective surgery to improve health and welfare as the result of a heritable trait, should not be bred to prevent the transmission of the harmful trait to offspring.
  • Breeding animals and offspring should be provided with a clean environment with adequate space, socialization, enrichment, shelter, food and water. All persons breeding animals should have a valid veterinary-patient-client-relationship with a local licensed veterinarian.
  • Veterinary professionals are well positioned and have a responsibility to educate themselves and the public regarding the risks associated with extreme conformations and other deleterious inherited conditions.
  • Prospective owners have a responsibility to do their due diligence in researching and selecting reputable sources of healthy pets.
  • The CVMA holds that responsible breeding of companion animals must be a collaboration between breeders, veterinary professionals, breed clubs and registries and prospective pet owners.
  • The CVMA is committed to raising awareness of deleterious breeding practices of companion animals in the public, the media and with animal health stakeholders.


  1. Selective breeding of animals for physical characteristics considered desirable by some breeders, breed organizations, marketers, some animal health professionals and ultimately by the general public, has increasingly led to severe health and welfare concerns for animals in several species and breeds. These deleterious health challenges have increasingly been minimized, normalized and even misrepresented as positive attributes. For example, referring to some brachycephalic dogs as having “low exercise requirements” when in reality, they are unable to exercise due to their restricted airways and inability to thermoregulate.
  2. Breeding animals and their offspring must be housed, fed and cared for in a manner that provides for their physical, social and behavioural needs. All animals, including those kept for breeding, require adequate socialization, and environmental enrichment sufficient to maintain behavioural health. Regular veterinary care such as vaccination, parasite control and behavioural assessments should be provided to both breeding animals and offspring while in the breeder’s care as well as after purchase, where applicable for the species (Additional resources (6).
  3. Breeding stock
    • Physical health
      • Breeding fitness:
        • Animals who cannot reasonably be expected to breed and deliver offspring without assistance must not be bred.
        • Animals should not be bred prior to skeletal and behavioural maturity, which will vary by and within species.
        • When making decisions on frequency of breeding, the health and welfare of the animals must be prioritized.
      • Genetic testing and testing for disease and inherited disorders:
        • Where available, all breeding animals should be genetically tested for the most common and most debilitating heritable diseases for that breed/species. Affected and carrier animals should not be selected for breeding.
        • When genetic testing for a condition is unavailable other appropriate health testing should be done to assess for deleterious heritable traits (e.g., hip dysplasia, metabolic disorders and organ system diseases). Affected and carrier animals should not be bred.
        • Health testing may include infectious disease that would manifest later in life (such as FeLV or FIV if age-appropriate).
        • When advertising animals as ‘genetic tested’ or ‘health tested’, the precise tests conducted and results for the animal in question should be made available to potential buyers. The CVMA strongly encourages prospective owners to do their due diligence and research the common disorders in the species or breed of interest and request those specific tests (if available) prior to purchase.
      • Selection of breeding animals:
        • The breeding of closely related individuals (inbreeding or line breeding) is strongly discouraged (1).
        • Selective breeding of animals for increasingly extreme conformation has led to severe health and welfare consequences. Examples include brachycephaly (flat-faced), exophthalmia (protruding eyeballs), chondrodysplasia (dwarfism), kyphosis (curved spine) and other spinal abnormalities, excessively long or sloped backs and excess skin folds. (2-5).
        • Selection of certain desirable traits has led to some medical disorders being exceptionally common in some dog and cat breeds (e.g., dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans, mitral valve degeneration and syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Polycystic Kidney Disease in Persian cats and others).
        • Breeders have a responsibility to mitigate these harmful inherited conditions by selecting only those animals least affected by them for breeding. This may include consulting with a veterinarian to review genetics and potential heritable conditions present in their animal(s). For some breeds this will likely mean outcrossing to reverse harmful characteristics as there are no longer any unaffected members of certain breeds (6-8).
        • The CVMA holds that it is unethical to perform corrective procedures for the purpose of masking preventable inherited conditions.
        • The CVMA holds that it is unethical to breed animals whose offspring are likely to suffer. In some European countries this is illegal. In Canada, there are existing laws that prohibit wilful harm. While current breeding practices resulting in extreme conformations and compromised health have yet to be challenged in court, there is a general recognition that the current situation that has resulted in harmful extreme conformations, particularly in dogs, must be addressed (Additional resources (9)).
    • Psychological Health:
      • Animals who display abnormal anxiety, fear or aggression should not be bred as in many cases these characteristics are heritable (9). In addition, these animals may not be capable of adequately caring for offspring.
      • Breeders have a responsibility to ensure that the environment in which their animals live is conducive to maintaining good welfare and psychological health.
      • Any animal showing signs of psychological deterioration should be removed from the breeding program and cared for appropriately e.g., placed as a pet in a home if appropriate, with support.
  4. Offspring
    • Breeders should ensure that there is demand for offspring prior to breeding to ensure that each animal is placed in an appropriate home at the appropriate age.
    • Offspring must not be placed in homes until they are sufficiently physically and developmentally mature. Age will vary by species.
    • Offspring should be socialized as appropriate for the species.
    • In most species, neonates require parental contact for optimal development. Maternal deprivation can lead to behaviour problems in the neonates later in life, therefore practices such as removing a female parent from offspring for prolonged periods prior to nutritional independence (e.g., weaning) for showing or work are inappropriate (10).
    • The CVMA is opposed to non-therapeutic veterinary procedures such as tail docking, dewclaw removal and ear cropping in dogs. Breeders or their associates performing these surgical procedures could be subject to prosecution. (Additional resources (2)).
    • Preference should be given to local homes to avoid prolonged transportation of young animals. When transport is required, all requirements within the federal Health of Animals Regulations and relevant provincial laws must be followed.
    • Breeders have a responsibility to educate potential and actual buyers about specific characteristics and needs of the purchased pet, however breeders should not provide medical recommendations to prospective owners which contradicts or goes beyond that provided by a veterinarian. Purchase contracts should not include requirements to restrict or specify nutrition or medical care.
  5. Shared ethical responsibility
    The CVMA holds that responsible breeding is not solely the responsibility of animal breeders, but is a shared duty between prospective buyers, marketers, brokers, breed registries and clubs, show judges, breeders, regulators and the veterinary industry. All are urged consider the welfare consequences from the point of view of the animal. The CVMA opposes the selective breeding of animals that results in or is likely to result in a conformation, function, hereditary trait, or temperament that is potentially detrimental to the quality of life of the resulting progeny.
    • Prospective pet owners:
      • Have a responsibility to inform themselves of health risks inherent in the species and breed of interest and ensure that the animal they select and purchase, is bred with a focus on health and welfare.
      • Are urged to do their due diligence to ensure that any animal that is purchased comes from a reputable, and preferably local, breeder and should avoid acquiring animals from individuals not adhering to the guidelines in this position statement.
      • Should ensure the characteristics of pet they are choosing suit their lifestyle and household and that they can provide appropriate care to the animal.
      • Have a responsibility to honestly represent themselves and their intentions for the animal and their care.
    • Marketers and brokers should consider that:
      • Use of animals with extreme or deleterious conformation in marketing contributes to demand for animals with conditions that reduce their welfare (11, 12).
      • Demand for a particular breed often increases when it is featured in various entertainment venues or social media (e.g., 101 Dalmatian Syndrome), therefore animals portrayed in media as pets should be a healthy representation of their species.
      • Veterinary clinics have a responsibility not to inadvertently promote animals with hereditary health and welfare concerns by posting pictures in clinic, on social media and clinic websites, and give the false impression that they promote ownership of these breeds.
    • Breed registries and show judges (dogs and cats):
      • Breed registries and kennel clubs should describe breed standards that promote good health and welfare and disallow as breed standards physical characteristics that lead to poor health and welfare or that require cosmetic surgery to achieve or to mask.
      • Breed registries should support breeders in organized out-crossing to reverse poor conformation in breeds where there are no longer genetics available to do so within the breed.
      • Judges should award dogs whose conformation promotes health and welfare and not reward those exhibiting extremes of breed standard that lead to poor health and welfare.
    • Veterinary professionals
      • Veterinary professionals have a responsibility to educate breeders and the public regarding the ethics of breeding animals that may be harmed in breeding or whose offspring may experience poor welfare. CVMA holds that veterinary professionals should educate clients regarding the risks associated with extreme conformations and/or other deleterious inherited conditions.
      • Veterinary professionals must not unintentionally normalize physical characteristics leading to poor health or welfare by refraining from:
        • Verbalizing or documenting that these characteristics are acceptable or “normal for the breed”.
        • Congratulating or commending the acquisition of animals with unhealthy physical characteristics without then educating the client on the health and welfare challenges the animal will face.
        • Assisting breeders in propagation of poor genetics by performing corrective surgery which masks inherited conditions. If surgery is required to maintain quality of life, the owner should be strongly urged to allow sterilization, if not already done.
        • Assisting in conception and routine delivery of animals that are incapable of doing so naturally. While emergency caesarian sections may be required for any animal, if a female is unable to ever be reasonably expected to deliver offspring vaginally, the veterinarian should counsel the owner that she should be removed from the breeding program. Likewise, artificial insemination should only be used as a tool to disseminate good genetics and introduce new genetic material. It should not be used as a tool to breed an animal that is physically unable to breed naturally.


  1. Bannasch, D., Famula, T., Donner, J. et al. The effect of inbreeding, body size and morphology on health in dog breeds. Canine Genet Epidemiol 8, 12 (2021). Available from:
  2. Packer RMA, Hendricks A, Tivers MS, Burn CC (2015) Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0137496.
  3. Packer RMA, Hendricks A, Volk HA, Shihab NK, Burn CC (2013) How Long and Low Can You Go? Effect of Conformation on the Risk of Thoracolumbar Intervertebral Disc Extrusion in Domestic Dogs. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69650. Available from:
  4. UFAW. Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals: Rabbits Netherland Dwarf. Available from:
  5. Schlueter C, Budras KD, Ludewig E, et al. Brachycephalic feline noses. CT and anatomical study of the relationship between head conformation and the nasolacrimal drainage system. J Feline Med Surg 2009; 11: 891–900. Available from:
  6. James HK. Effectiveness of Canine Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia Improvement Programs in Six UK Pedigree Breeds. Front. Vet. Sci., 15 January 2020. Available from:
  7. Collins LM, Asher L, Summers J, McGreevy P. 2011. Getting priorities straight: risk assessment and decision-making in the improvement of inherited disorders in pedigree dogs. Vet J 189(2):147-54. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2011.06.012. Epub 2011 Jul 13. Available from:
  8. Farrell, L.L., Schoenebeck, J.J., Wiener, P. et al. The challenges of pedigree dog health: approaches to combating inherited disease. Canine Genet Epidemiol 2, 3 (2015). Available from:
  9. Zapata I, Serpell JA, Alvarez CE. 2016. Genetic mapping of canine fear and aggression. BMC Genomics. 17:572. Available from:
  10. Foyer, P, Wilsson, E, Jensen, P. Levels of maternal care in dogs affect adult offspring temperament. Sci Rep 6, 19253 (2016). Available from:
  11. BVA Advertising Guidelines – Pets in advertising: A social concern. Available from:
  12. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Advertising imagery guidelines. Available from:

Additional Resources

  1. CVMA Position Statement Keeping Wild (Native or Exotic) Animals as Pets.
  2. CVMA Position Statement Elective and Non-therapeutic Veterinary Procedures for Cosmetic or Competitive Purposes.
  3. WSAVA Calls for Health Focused Breeding
  4. National Companion Animal Coalition
  5. Gormley, K and Berry J, Animal welfare position papers, puppy mills, and you. Can Vet J 2009 Nov; 50(110): 1166-1168. Available from:
  6. CVMA Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations.
  7. Packer R and O’Neill D (eds). Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic (Flat-faced) Companion Animals: A ( 2021, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.
  8. Government of Canada. Health of Animals Regulations.,_c._296/.
  9. International Collaborative on Extreme Conformations in Dogs