New codes of practice for dog, cat and horse owners with practical advice on how best to look after their pets’ health and wellbeing were published today (December 8).

New codes of practice for dog, cat and horse owners with practical advice on how best to look after their pets’ health and wellbeing were published today (December 8).

DEFRA publishes cat and dog codesAnimal welfare organisations and vets helped DEFRA draw up the codes of practice for dogs, cats and equines, designed to provide owners and keepers with information on how to meet the welfare needs of their animals, as required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Animal welfare minister Jim Fitzpatrick unveiled the new booklets on a visit to a Dogs Trust re-homing centre in London to back the charity’s Christmas campaign.

He said: “We’re a nation of animal lovers, but sadly too many people still don’t know how to look after their pets properly and get things wrong. The new codes of practice contain clear and straightforward advice, supported by organisations including the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, PDSA, British Veterinary Association and British Horse Society, and they don’t place any new requirements on owners and keepers. They are designed to explain to people their responsibility and legal duty of care to their pets, and to help protect animals from pain, injury and disease.”

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) welcomed the publication of the codes but, disappointed at the lack of advice on healthy breeding practice, has called on the Government to review their effectiveness in a year.

Codes of PracticeAlong with a number of other organisations the BVA recommended that owners should have a duty to ensure that unhealthy animals with known hereditary diseases are not used for breeding, and that the codes include advice on health screening for such diseases. DEFRA argued that these issues could not be included in the codes, but the BVA is calling on the Government to review the codes in 12 months after consideration of both the APGAW and Bateson Reviews of pedigree dogs, to see if further advice can be given to pet owners on breeding issues.

BVA president Bill Reilly said: “The BVA supports the publication of the codes and encourages vets to promote the information to their clients. However, it is vital that DEFRA keeps these codes under review to ensure they actively promote responsible ownership.

“With so much attention on the health and welfare problems associated with breeding the BVA is calling on the Government to consider including information and advice on breeding once it has considered the recommendations of the APGAW and Bateson reviews on pedigree dog breeding.”

The RSPCA also has long backed plans for the introduction of codes in England to provide clear information to help owners protect their animal’s welfare. The society has worked closely with DEFRA to help ensure that the codes are as effective as possible.

Head of external affairs David Bowles said: “We hope the codes will help improve animal welfare and prevent suffering by helping owners to understand what the law requires of them. 

The RSPCA’s 300 inspectors will be using the codes as part of its enforcement work throughout England. Separate welfare codes for dogs, cats, equines and rabbits are currently in operation in Wales. The charity will also be working with DEFRA on reviewing the effectiveness of the codes.

For more information on the codes of practice, visit

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