is the first country in the UK to publish guidance on the welfare of dogs, cats and horses.
The guidance has been created in a bid to inform people of the responsibility, time and cost involved in caring for an animal properly.
Cases of animal cruelty and abandonment continue to rise, which suggests that not all prospective pet owners have considered carefully the responsibilities associated with looking after an animal.
Recent figures from the RSPCA show that cruelty investigations rose from 105,000 in 2003 to just below 140,000 in 2007 in Wales and England. Other animal welfare charities, such as the Dogs Trust, have also seen a rise in the number of animals they must care for.
The Codes of Practice for Dogs, Cats and Equines (which includes horses and donkeys) have all-party support at the National Assembly and have been produced following extensive consultation and are welcomed by animal welfare groups. They are practical guides for people who own, or are thinking of getting a dog, cat or horse.
Launching the Codes at Greenmeadow Community Farm Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said: “There may be people who will wonder why guidance is needed on the welfare of pet animals. The sad truth is that while many people will care for their pet and provide them with a safe home for their lifetime far too many animals are subjected to cruel treatment and are abandoned. Cruelty figures continue to rise and we only have to look at reports in the media to see that this is a very real issue. Local authorities also face costs by pursuing cruelty cases through the courts, funding which could be used for other things.
“Taking on a pet is a big responsibility. There are costs involved, such as feeding and vet fees, as well as the time that is needed to look after them properly. These guides set out what is expected if someone is considering having a pet.
“Christmas is a time when some parents may feel pressurised to buy a pet for their children without perhaps realising the financial and long-term commitment of this decision. I would urge anyone thinking of having a pet to check these guides and see if they can, in all honesty, provide the care that is needed for the animal.”
Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christianne Glossop said: “Keeping a pet is a privilege not a right, they need a great deal of care and it is the case that not everyone realises that a commitment is needed when taking on a pet. These guides aim to be a definitive explanation of what you need to consider before having a pet.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Kennel Club has been heavily involved in drafting these codes and in general, we think that these codes represent a positive step forward in this area. We congratulate the Welsh Assembly Government on being the first administration in the UK to implement these codes, and we hope this will provide owners with a greater understanding of their duty of care under the Animal Welfare Act.”
Clarrisa Baldwin OBE, chief executive of the Dogs Trust said: “Dogs Trust welcomes the implementation of the Code of Practice for dogs. Anything that can be done to improve the public’s knowledge of how dogs should be kept is very important as many welfare problems we encounter are the result of ignorance rather than deliberate neglect. Dogs Trust will be using the Codes to help advise people adopting dogs from our Centre in Bridgend to provide good care for their dogs.”
Maggie Roberts, Director of Veterinary Services at Cats Protection, said: “Cats Protection is very pleased that Wales has led the way in producing the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats. It is a positive step forward to ensure that all cats have their physical and emotional needs met.”
Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, said: “World Horse Welfare welcomes the Welsh Assembly Government’s new Code of Practice for the Welfare of Equines. The Code is a critical element of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 as it sets a baseline for meeting the needs of all horses. It provides helpful advice for existing and potential horse owners, as well as greatly assisting the authorities should problems arise. It is encouraging that Wales have taken the initiative in developing this Code, which I hope will be a valuable tool in protecting the welfare of horses.”
- The Codes have been prepared under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Similar codes are being prepared in England and Scotland, which will be based on those produced in Wales.
- There are approximately 7.3million dogs and 9 million cats in Great Britain. The Equine industry is worth an estimated £300 – £400 million in Wales.
- Farm animals are already subject to Codes of Practice and the Animal Welfare Act provides the same protection for pet animals.