Animal welfare and looking after your pet

5 minute read

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The Animal Welfare Act 2006 defines a pet owner's duty of care. 

  • The Animal Welfare Act applies to pets as well as livestock
  • How to keep your pets safe, healthy and happy 
  • Why it's a legal requirement to microchip your dog

A member of the family

There's no doubt we Brits love our pets. Cats and dogs remain the most popular pets, with many of us considering them to be a member of the family. And for many owners, animal welfare is a top priority. This includes being able to pay for medical treatment for your pet.

Duty of care as an owner

The Animal Welfare Act doesn't only apply to farmed animals - it also applies to pets.

When you become a pet owner, you must provide the right type of care for your pet. If you don't look after your animal properly, you can be fined or sent to prison for up to six months. You can also be banned from owning animals in the future.

Five key animal welfare considerations

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has set out Codes of Practice for dogs and cats. It provides lots of information about the things you need to consider when caring for your pet. They highlight five key considerations:

1. Environment

Cats and dogs need a safe environment, free from hazards such as poisonous plants or open windows that could be dangerous for inquisitive pets.

They should have a comfortable, dry place to rest, even if they live outside. And they need somewhere to go to the toilet that's away from where they sleep.

Cats and dogs also need a place they can go to feel safe if they're frightened. Indoor cats in particular need somewhere to play and climb, so they don't get bored.

2. Diet

All animals need access to fresh water at all times. You should also feed your pet a balanced diet that's suitable for its age, gender, size and state of health. Some human foods, such as chocolate, can make your dog unwell, so only feed them food suitable for animals.

If your pet eats something it shouldn't and needs to see a vet, your pet insurance may cover the cost of treatment.

Dogs must be fed at least once a day, whereas cats generally prefer smaller meals more often. And for cats, position food and water bowls away from litter trays.

3. Behaviour

Each animal will behave according to its own personality, age and past experiences. That's why it's important to socialise your pet when it's young and to train a dog how to behave in certain circumstances. This will also help you keep it under control as it grows.

Cats and dogs can get bored, so they should have access to toys. Dogs should be given the chance to socialise with other dogs when they're out on a walk.

4. Other pets in your household

Some pets benefit from being in the company of other animals, but others prefer to be the only pet in the household.

Try to be mindful about how your cat or dog interacts with other animals and let them have space to avoid each other if they don't get on.

Many dogs don't like being left alone for long periods of time - try to avoid this when possible, or connect with local dog walkers or doggy day care businesses. 

5. Protection from pain and suffering

Dogs and cats are vulnerable to injury and disease, so take precautions to make sure they're kept as safe as possible.

For example, animals should be vaccinated where possible and if you're not planning to breed from the animal then consider getting your pet neutered.

Many types of pet can be microchipped, so they can be easily reunited with their owner if lost. In fact, it's a legal requirement to microchip a dog over the age of eight weeks.

But if the worst happens and your pet goes missing, LV= pet insurance will cover the cost of advertising and even a reward to help get your pet home.

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