Pets bring joy and love into our lives, but with that comes huge responsibility and a legal duty to ensure they are happy and healthy. All loving pet owners want to do the best for their pet, so how do we make sure we give our pets the right care in the right environment?
The Animal Welfare Act, which was passed in 2006, places a legal responsibility on pet owners to prevent suffering by providing for their animal’s five welfare needs:
- A comfortable place to rest and sleep: Create a cosy spot where your pet can rest undisturbed. Beds should also be cleaned regularly to prevent fleas.
- A healthy diet and fresh water: Pet obesity is a big problem in the UK, affecting 51% of dogs and 44% of cats. Owners have an important role to play in providing nutritious food in appropriate amounts.
- To behave naturally: Animals should be allowed to exercise regularly. For dogs this usually means a walk at least once a day, unless extreme heat makes this unsafe.
- To be housed with or apart from other animals: This depends on the species and the individual animal. Cats are usually solitary for example, but some animals enjoy the company of others.
- To be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease: Animals need vaccinations, treatment for fleas and dental checks; a trip to the vet is a good opportunity for a complete health check. Pet Health Insurance is also an important consideration for all pet owners which helps guard against unexpected veterinary fees.
But good welfare doesn’t stop here. To make the most of your relationship with your pet and improve their quality of life there are ways to go above and beyond.
Being a responsible owner
Sourcing your pet
The law prohibits the third-party sale of puppies and kittens in England, Scotland, and Wales. This means that the only way to source a puppy or kitten legally is directly from the breeder or from a rescue centre.
Only get a pet from a reputable place which puts the health and welfare of animals first and wherever possible choose rescue centres; there are many animals that need a home.
Microchipped is best
Since 2016, it has been a legal requirement for all dogs over the age of eight weeks to be microchipped and the Government has announced its intention to bring in compulsory microchipping for cats.
At Battersea, we microchip all our dogs and cats before they are rehomed, but under law the keeper is responsible for keeping the contact details up ¬to¬ date. The law (Control of Dogs Order 1992) also states that your dog must wear a collar and a tag when in public. Most owners assume their pet will never go missing, but in 2021 26% of the dogs and cats that arrived at Battersea were strays, and many cannot be reunited with their owners as there is no way of tracing them.
Neutering your dog or cat will guard against unwanted pregnancies. For dogs, anyone breeding three or more litters in a 12-month period in England or Wales (or five litters in Scotland) and selling one or more of the puppies, must be licensed by their local council. Anyone who isn’t licensed can be given a prison sentence or a large fine.
While cat breeding is not currently regulated, according to Cats Protection figures if a single cat is left unneutered, in five years that cat could be responsible for 20,000 descendants. Neutering also has health and behavioural benefits, including the prevention of certain cancers.
The Countryside Code states that you must put your dog on a lead when walking anywhere near livestock to prevent dogs from attacking sheep and other animals. Other than this there is no blanket law requiring dogs to be kept on leads. However, to ensure the safety of your dog and others, it is a good idea to keep them on a lead when you are out walking until you reach an enclosed green space.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 also states that you must clean up after your dog to help keep the neighbourhood clean and prevent illness in people, livestock, and wild animals.
Helping your pet thrive
Pet owners need to provide their animals with environments that allow them to exercise their minds as well as their bodies. For example, cats need time to roam independently and benefit from play.
For dogs, training and socialisation are crucial in reducing stress and avoiding behavioural difficulties, as under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it is illegal for any dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’, which means injuring someone or making someone fear they may be injured.
Walking your dog is the best way to socialise them and make sure they are comfortable around other dogs, people and new sights and sounds, and reward-based training can be a fun way to bond with your dog and teach them everyday skills.
Check out advice from our expert team on everything you need to know to care for your dog or cat.