Is it Illegal to Own a Monkey in Canada?

August 7, 2021
It is illegal to own a pet monkey in Toronto.
It is illegal to own a pet monkey in Toronto.
  • In Canada, provincial and municipal bylaws regarding monkey and other exotic animal ownership  vary.
  • As of  2003,  the Ontario Municipal Act gave municipalities the power to enact exotic animal bylaws. This means jurisdiction over exotic animal ownership is given to the provinces.
  • Ontario is the only province without any provincial legislation regarding the regulation of exotic animal ownership.
  • It is left up to Ontario municipalities to regulate the exotic animal ownership through bylaws .
  • Some municipalities do consider primates illegal, but many don’t.
  • The Ontario Provincial Government is in the process of trying to pass a private member’s Bill 125 to oversee exotic wildlife in captivity. However, Bill 125 is not currently in effect.
  • The OSPCA ( Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is the provincial authoritative body that is designated to intervene in cases of alleged animal cruelty.
  • The OSPCA does not regulate the ownership of exotic pets except in cases of alleged animal cruelty.
  • If someone is found to have caused unnecessary suffering to an animal they can be charged with a criminal offence.


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Section 445.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada:

Causing unnecessary suffering

  • 445.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who
    • (a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird;
    • (b) in any manner encourages, aids or assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds;
    • (c) wilfully, without reasonable excuse, administers a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to a domestic animal or bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is kept in captivity or, being the owner of such an animal or a bird, wilfully permits a poisonous or an injurious drug or substance to be administered to it;
    • (d) promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for or takes part in any meeting, competition, exhibition, pastime, practice, display or event at or in the course of which captive birds are liberated by hand, trap, contrivance or any other means for the purpose of being shot when they are liberated; or
    • (e) being the owner, occupier or person in charge of any premises, permits the premises or any part thereof to be used for a purpose mentioned in paragraph (d).
    • Marginal note:Punishment

(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than eighteen months or to both.

  • Marginal note:Failure to exercise reasonable care as evidence

(3) For the purposes of proceedings under paragraph (1)(a), evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or a bird thereby causing it pain, suffering or injury is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the pain, suffering or injury was caused or was permitted to be caused wilfully, as the case may be.

  • Marginal note:Presence at baiting as evidence

(4) For the purpose of proceedings under paragraph (1)(b), evidence that an accused was present at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that he or she encouraged, aided or assisted at the fighting or baiting.


  • It is legal to own a  pet monkey in some parts of Canada depending on the provincial or municipal by-laws in the respective province or city.
  • Toronto has municipal by laws which prohibit people from owning monkeys as pets.
  • There is a lengthy list of prohibited pets in Toronto.
  • Violating these bylaws can mean a maximum $5,000 fine for each offence, but will not result in a criminal record.
  • In other parts of Canada, where monkey ownership is legal people that own primates  are required to possess a permit.
  • According to the Canadian Constitution Act, animals are considered property.
  • Different permits exist for pet owners, researchers and the entertainment industry.
  • If you are charged with a criminal offence contact Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers today for a free consultation!

Also See:

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Jonathan Pyzer
Written By:
Jonathan Pyzer
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan is a highly skilled and sought after criminal defence lawyer who represents clients charged with criminal offences all over the Province of Ontario. He is a member in good-standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Toronto Lawyers Association.
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