Choosing and Caring for a Family Pet

A pet is an important part of the family and a big responsibility. There are many factors to consider when bringing a pet to your home or having someone care for your pet while you are away.

Choosing a pet

People generally adopt animals from pet stores, animal shelters, rescue groups, breeders and private sellers.

Always be sure to speak with and visit several potential sellers to get a sense of how facilities differ in how they care for animals.

It is recommended NOT to buy a pet online or by other forms of advertisement without visiting where the animals live and meeting the animal you may adopt.


signs of a reputable seller | caring for your animals while you are away | 

evaluating boarding facilities | reporting a concern | contact


Signs of a reputable seller

  • Inquiries from potential buyers are responded to in a timely manner. Sellers are willing to speak over the phone and meet in person. The seller willingly provides their full name, phone number, and the address of where animals are being raised and sold.
  • The seller freely provides information on how they operate, the number of animals they care for, where their animals come from, the number of animals annually placed with new owners and their spay and neuter policy.
  • Sellers promote that pets are spayed or neutered in a timely manner to prevent pet overpopulation.
  • The seller provides references from previous adopters or the people they source their animals from upon request.
  • Potential buyers are welcome to meet animals in person with their family members.
  • Experienced staff and/or volunteers are available to provide proper care to the number of animals in care.
  • Animals appear well socialized and are provided with appropriate toys and social enrichment.
  • Sellers provide a written sale agreement that clearly documents any conditions where the seller will honor a return/refund policy in the event the buyer wishes to surrender the animal if they are no longer able or willing to keep them.
  • To make the best match, sellers will ask questions to determine the expectations of the potential buyer and to determine if the potential buyer is well suited to the animal they wish to purchase.

Animal health and welfare

  • The seller's animals are kept current on preventive veterinary health care, such as vaccinations and deworming.
  • Potential buyers are provided with documents showing prior veterinary care, including diagnosis or treatment for any previously identified illness, injury, or genetic disorder.
  • Sellers disclose to prospective owners any known genetic diseases previously diagnosed in the parents of the animals to be sold.
  • Sellers are motivated to keep and sell animals that are healthy. They do not promote the breeding of animals with genetic abnormalities that negatively affect the animal’s welfare and quality of life, or that of their offspring. Examples of these abnormalities include shortened noses that prevent normal breathing, skeletal abnormalities that increase the risk of arthritis, skin abnormalities that promote infection or prevent normal sight.
  • Animals appear to be an appropriate weight and free from illness or injury. Animals are fed good quality food and have regular access to clean liquid water.
  • Sellers strive to place animals in a home suited to their behavioural, physical, and social needs, and disclose any behavioural concerns about animals to be sold.
  • Puppies are not placed with new owners before they are eight weeks old. Potential buyers are welcome to meet the mother of puppies when present.

Visiting the facility

  • Animal housing facilities look and smell clean.
  • Have adequate space for animals to rest and play.
  • Outdoor housing is provided with adequate protection from extreme weather conditions.
  • Animals are protected from extreme heat and cold with adequate ventilation and lighting.
  • Animals have access to bedding that is clean and dry.
  • Facilities comply with local restrictions on the number of animals allowed per premises and abide by governing animal welfare and animal control laws.

Additional considerations for animal shelters or rescue groups

  • A positive reputation in the community among veterinarians and pet owners.
  • A board of directors and a robust roster of volunteers.
  • When asking for donations they can provide proof of charitable tax status. Before donating to a rescue or shelter, ensure they are a registered charity by searching on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Caring for your animals while you are away

  • If you need care for your pet, a trusted friend or family member, a boarding kennel, or a day care are options to consider while you are away.
  • When looking for a caregiver for your animal ask a family member,  friend, neighbour, veterinarian, animal shelter or a dog trainer for a recommendation. You can also search for boarding facilities online.
  • When selecting a caregiver, consider whether somebody will come to your home to provide care, or whether your animal will be boarded outside of your home.
  • Provide the caregiver with your contact information so you can be reached in the event of an emergency. Give them your travel itinerary so they have access to your schedule and where you will be when you are away.
  • Consider advising your veterinarian about when you will be away, who will be caring for your animal and who is authorized to make medical decisions for your animal in your absence. Discuss fee payment options if your pet requires medical attention in your absence.
  • Ensure your animals are current on their vaccines, deworming, and relevant parasite control. This can be a benefit if the animal is being boarded in close contact with other animals.
  • Contact your veterinarian and boarding facility to confirm which veterinary preventive care treatments are recommended or required, and how far in advance to boarding they should or must be administered. Ask your veterinarian for documents or certificates to show the treatments your animal received, when they were administered, and how long they are in effect.
  • If your caregiver is faced with an emergency and can no longer provide care to your animals, ensure there is another trusted caregiver they can contact.
  • Once you select a possible caregiver, it’s important to do a background check. Confirm they can care for your animal for the specified dates and they can attend to your animal’s daily feeding, exercise, medical and social needs. Next, schedule an in person visit and ask for references who can speak to the quality of the caregiver.


Evaluating boarding facilities


When visiting a potential boarding facility in person, ask to tour the entire premises, meet the people who will be taking care of your animal, and see all the places where your animal will be cared for. Pay attention to the following:

Physical location

  • Does the facility look and smell clean?
  • Is there sufficient ventilation and lighting?
  • Is there a comfortable air temperature with supplemental heating and cooling to accommodate extreme temperatures?
  • Do outdoor animals have an adequately sized enclosure protected from wind, rain and snow?
  • Is bedding provided to allow animals to rest on the floor and keep animals clean and dry?
  • Are incompatible animals housed separately from each other?
  • Is there a separate area for animals to eliminate, eat and drink, rest and play?
  • Is the staff knowledgeable and caring?
  • Is there an appropriate number of experienced staff for the number and types of animals being housed in the facility?

Policies and services

  • Will the facility allow you to bring your pet’s own food or does the facility provide food?
  • Are animals fed at appropriate intervals and in adequate amounts?
  • What is the onsite policy for providing veterinary care? If your animal becomes ill or injured while you are away and needs veterinary medical attention, will the facility take your pet to the veterinarian of your choice or to a selected veterinarian. Who is responsible for veterinary fees at the time of service?
  •  What is the facility’s policy on vaccines and deworming?
  • Did they ask for certificates of current vaccinations?
  • Are other services available such as grooming, socialization, exercise and bathing?
  • Does the boarding facility have a written agreement with the owner stating the duration of boarding, applicable fees charged and services provided, emergency contact information, boarding or fee policy for failing to pick animal up when planned?
  • How are boarding rates calculated, are fees payable at the time the animals are taken into care or at the end of their stay?

Reporting concerns of potential animal abuse

In rare instances the public may witness concerns that animals are not being provided with adequate care that constitutes animal abuse. These concerns may be witnessed while the animal is in the possession or control of its owner, a caregiver, or a business. Concerns should be reported to animal welfare authorities who can take lawful measures to assess the concerns observed and pursue corrective action if required.

Please notify authorities if you suspect any animal is:

  • lacking adequate food and water
  • exposed to extreme cold or heat
  • not provided with suitable medical attention if wounded or ill
  • confined in an area of insufficient space
  • kept in unsanitary conditions
  • confined without adequate ventilation
  • not allowed an opportunity for sufficient exercise
  • suffering, seriously injured or in extreme anxiety or distress
  • abandoned

Learn about how to make the right call to report an animal welfare concern.


For more information, please contact the Animal Care Line, or call 204-945-8000 (in Winnipeg); 1-888-945-8001 (toll free).