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UK pets at risk as two-thirds of owners unaware of welfare needs

Only one in three pet owners (35 percent) are familiar with their pet’s legal welfare needs, reveals a coalition of veterinary organisations ahead of the tenth anniversary of the landmark Animal Welfare Acts (8 November).

Despite over half of UK households owning a pet, findings from the veterinary charity PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report shows that year-on-year owners’ awareness of their pets’ welfare needs remains consistently low.

This has prompted leading veterinary organisations including BVA, the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), Blue Cross, PDSA and RSPCA to launch a joint campaign to help pet owners better understand the complexities of their pet’s five welfare needs.

The PAW Report revealed that 97 percent of veterinary professionals agreed there is value in encouraging pet owners to better understand and provide for the five welfare needs of their pets.

PDSA research further shows that pet owners who feel more informed about each of the five welfare needs are significantly more likely to provide preventive healthcare to their pets.

President of BVA Gudrun Ravetz said: “It’s concerning that, despite many veterinary practices’ best efforts, public awareness of the five welfare needs remains consistently low.

“There are so many strong voices for animal welfare, which is why it’s great that so many veterinary organisations – including BSAVA, BVNA and BVZS – are coming together within this coalition to highlight pet owners’ legal duty of care.

“We hope practices across the country will join us in spreading the message by continuing to deliver the welfare need-focused advice to clients that they already do, day-in, day-out.”

James Yeates, who chairs the Veterinary animal welfare coalition as part of the Vet Futures Action Plan, said: “The five welfare needs are a fantastic ‘umbrella’ guide to taking care of our pets, yet each and every species has such differing welfare needs – from cats who tend to be solitary animals and usually prefer to be the only pet to rabbits that should live in pairs or groups of other rabbits and dogs, who should not be left on their own for more than a few hours a day – it’s vital that pet owners can translate theory into practice.

“Our understanding of animal welfare science has come such a long way over the past 50 years so we’d really like pet owners to visit their local veterinary practice, where they will be able to get tailored, up-to-date advice for their pets.”

According to a recent survey by BVA, vets’ top welfare concern is a pet’s diet, one of the five welfare needs, with vets reporting obesity, dental issues and other complex health problems as a result.

The veterinary coalition hopes that raising public awareness will encourage the 15 percent of pet owners not currently registered with a veterinary practice to seek out their local surgery for expert advice on their pet’s welfare needs.

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