Veterinary leaders have praised a “brave and bold” report from the PDSA that reveals how millions of UK pets are being let down by owners who do not fully understand their needs.

Veterinary leaders have praised a “brave and bold” report from the PDSA that reveals how millions of UK pets are being let down by owners who do not fully understand their needs.

According to the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report, the overall 'score' for rabbit owners meeting their pets needs was just 53 out of 100.According to the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2011, published on March 3, more than half of owners do not know about the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), with many falling below average in meeting their animal’s needs.

The report surveyed more than 11,000 pet owners and reveals how owners are failing in their duty to provide for approximately 10 million dogs, cats and rabbits in line with the five needs enshrined in the AWA.

The charity hopes to produce an annual wellbeing report, with its 2011 findings acting as a benchmark to monitor the welfare of pets in years to come.

Speaking to vetsonline at a launch preview on March 2, RCVS president Peter Jinman and BVA president Harvey Locke praised the document and urged practitioners to read it.

Mr Jinman said: “It’s a very brave and bold piece of work. The next initiative is going to be how we all get involved – whether it’s charities, vets, veterinary associations – to assist owners and the animals under their care.”

Mr Locke added: “It is a sound report – it is excellent and vets need to take notice of it. We should be using it as a basis for assessing how good we are in this country at responsible pet ownership.”

Overall national index scores for each species.PDSA director of veterinary services Richard Hooker told vetsonline the report was not meant as a “finger-wagging exercise”, but should act as a “line in the sand” on which to benchmark. He said: “It’s about producing a change in their behaviour which [at the moment] is often well-meaning but often misguided.”

In collaboration with research experts YouGov, the charity polled owners on how they provided for their pet’s environment, diet, behaviour, companionship and health and weighted the results to provide an indexed score out of 100. As a nation, owners scored an average of 63 out of an ideal mark of 100, however, 48% of owners scored less than the average.

Pet owners familiar with the Animal Welfare Act.According to the index, cats are best cared for, scoring 65, followed by dogs (62), with rabbit owners meeting just over half of their animal’s needs (53).

Extrapolating the index scores across the whole UK pet population, PDSA believes around 5 million cats, 4 million dogs and more than 700,000 rabbits could be suffering both mentally and physically because some needs are not being met.

Despite the AWA making owners legally responsible for caring for their pets, only 45% of the dog, cat and rabbit owners polled by PDSA felt they were familiar with the act. Nevertheless, the vast majority of owners (89%) believe people should have a basic understanding of the health and welfare needs outlined in it.

Commenting on how the PAW report findings could be used, Mr Hooker called on all stakeholders to help form a multi-faceted approach. He said: “We, as vets, have a responsibility to provide good consistent, clear information, pet owners themselves have a responsibility to seek that information from vets, online sources etc. and animal charities should make sure the information is available and find novel ways of getting the information out there.”
On the back of the report, PDSA now plans to create a quick reference guide for owners, identifying key needs and tips for wellbeing, as well as working with charities and other organisations to take key issues forward.
To view the PAW report 2011, visit

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