Most UK pet owners "unaware of legal welfare needs"

Only one in three pet owners in the UK is aware of their pets' legal welfare needs, reveals research carried out by a coalition of veterinary organisations. The coalition, launched on 8 November - marking the tenth anniversary of the Animal Welfare Acts - comprises of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) and veterinary charities Blue Cross, PDSA and RSPCA.

animal-welfare-needs_logo_rgb_72dpi Their aim is to encourage pet owners to have a closer relationship with their vet practice in order to understand their pet’s welfare needs - something many fail to grasp, according to findings in PDSA's PAW Report. Pet owner awareness has stayed low throughout the past five years,  with figures fluctuating between 45 per cent in 2011 and 35 per cent this year; the lowest point was in 2015, with only 31 per cent of pet owners proving themselves knowledgeable.

PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman says, “Pets are treasured companions who fulfil and enrich the lives of many. They are so much more than ‘just pets’; they are part of our families, offering love and support to millions of owners. And as with all family members, we should do everything we can to ensure they are as happy and healthy as possible. Vets and vet nurses have a crucial role to play in raising awareness and improving owners’ understanding of the five welfare needs – which to date has remained worrying low. By launching this Coalition, we hope to improve understanding of pets’ specific needs and offer the latest, most up-to-date advice so pet owners can provide and protect their pets’ physical and mental wellbeing.”

The PAW Report also revealed that 97% of veterinary professionals agreed there is value in encouraging pet owners to better understand and provide for the five welfare needs of their pets. According to a recent survey by BVA, vets' top welfare concern is a pet's diet, with vets reporting obesity, dental issues and other complex health problems as a result. The veterinary coalition hopes that raising public awareness will encourage the 15 per cent of pet owners not currently registered with a veterinary practice to register soon and discuss their pet's welfare with a vet.

President of BSAVA Susan Dawson said, “Too many of our members in practice see pets once a lack of understanding for the animal’s needs has led to ill-health or issues with behavior. By joining together with our colleagues across the profession we can encourage a greater understanding of the responsibilities of pet ownership. We know that preventative medicine leads to longer and healthier lives for companion animals, and the messages we can share through the animal welfare coalition will give us all a stronger voice.”

The situation is not entirely grim: recently, NOAH research shows that the British public are becoming better informed on vital role veterinary medicines play in supporting the health and welfare of our animals. Hopefully, this coalition will be able to speed things up.