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John Stitt, BVM&S MRCVS, vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, Barrow-in-Furness

John Stitt, BVM&S MRCVS, vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, Barrow-in-Furness

EVERY fortnight, JOHN STITT, BVM&S MRCVS, a vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, writes for our Pets pages.

DURING the recent coverage of the Leece pony saga it occurred to me that maybe we as vets don’t do enough to raise awareness of animal rights.

As a profession we have a key role in educating the public about what is expected, in fact required of them in relation to the keeping and caring of their animals.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 was given royal assent on November 8, 2006.

This act modernised animal welfare legislation, creating a duty of care to ensure that the needs of animals are taken care of, and more importantly creating a new offence of failing to provide for these needs.

Action to protect animals can now be taken much earlier, and the act places more emphasis on owners and keepers to meet their animals’ needs.

The most recent survey, published December 12 2013 (conducted by you.gov) asked questions of owners, children, vets and nurses.

It discovered that overall awareness of welfare legislation had declined over the last three years.

Only seven per cent of children were aware of the “five needs”.

These are:

  • Need for a suitable environment
  • Need for a suitable diet
  • Need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • Need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

It all looks very simple, but all too often the measures to meet these needs are not in place.

The survey revealed that only 38 per cent (a reduction from the previous survey) of adults were aware of the act.

The top three concerns for vets, nurses, and in particular animal charities are:

  • Owner awareness/lack of awareness of the true cost of pet ownership.
  • Awareness/lack of awareness of the five welfare needs.
  • Pre-purchase research/lack of research by owners.

With internet access all of the necessary information is within easy reach of most people.

The following contacts will be of help: www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-welfare-of-dogs also available for cats, horses/donkeys etc.

There are many useful guidelines here, including advice on purchase of animals.

Websites for animal charities have excellent information about animal welfare including:
RSPCA www.rspca.org.uk December 2013 (conducted by you.gov)
Defra, Dept of Environment Food and Rural Affairs www.defra.gov.uk
British Veterinary Association www.bva.co.uk

The team of vets, nurses and receptionists will always be happy to help at your local practice.

With a little bit of homework we now have no excuse for getting on to the wrong side of what is now the law.

The maximum penalty for committing an offence under the act is up to 51 weeks imprisonment, a fine of up to £20,000, or both.

So let’s all be fair with our animals.

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