The health and welfare of millions of UK animals is at risk due to impulse buys of pets, often with no research or knowledge of their welfare needs prior to purchase, a report has said.

PDSA PAW Report 2016Key findings from the sixth annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report showed:

  • 5% of pet owners (1.1 million) spoke with a veterinary professional ahead of taking on their pet.
  • 24% (5.2 million) undertook no research before acquiring a pet.
  • 65% lacked awareness of a pet’s five welfare needs and 26% reported they had never heard of them.
  • An 89% increase had occurred in pets sourced from advertisements on the internet over the past two years.
  • 37% would consider getting a pet from an advert posted on social media.
  • Almost all (98%) incorrectly estimated the lifetime cost of pet ownership (stated as between £21,000 to £33,000 for a dog, £17,000 to £24,000 for a cat and £10,000 to £15,000 for a rabbit).
  • 12% believed their pet will cost them no more than £500 over their lifetime.

Appeal

The findings have prompted an appeal from former BVA president Sean Wensley for the UK vet profession to market itself as the go-to source of expert advice for potential pet owners before they obtain an animal.

Speaking in his role as PDSA senior vet, Dr Wensley said: “The fact we’ve found only 5% of owners took advice from a vet or VN before taking on a pet is really concerning, given the amount of expertise and experience we could convey to prospective pet owners.”

‘Endorse others’

Dr Wensley continued: “The key message to me would be to endorse others who have commented in the report that we need to reposition vet practice in the mind of the public as not somewhere one just goes when a pet is ill or injured, but any practice would welcome prospective owners with open arms, with a keen desire to help them.

“To reposition the public’s perception of vet practices is going to require marketing by the profession and individual practices where we’re seen as credible animal welfare hubs within local communities – not only through the treatments they perform, but through client education evenings, practice newsletters, websites and engagement with local politicians and press.

“I think part of that marketing explicitly needs to be: ‘If you’re thinking about getting a pet, come and speak to us’.”

  • Read the full story in the 28 November issue of Veterinary Times.
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