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Britain seeks to educate pet owners

The British government is taking a royal ribbing for distributing a list of pet care guidelines that some see as intrusive, some see as simplistic and still others see as an extraordinary waste of time.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it wanted to remind pet owners of their responsibilities under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.

The document, which will be published as a leaflet and on Defra’s website, says owners must provide their pets with a “suitable place to live” including “somewhere suitable to go to the toilet.” It also advises cat and dog owners  to provide “entertainment” and “mental stimulation” for their pets.

Owners will not be fined for breaking the rules, but failure to comply may be used in animal cruelty prosecutions, according to a BBC article on the new guide.  (Be sure and check out the comments from readers at the bottom.)

The 26-page document on cat welfare begins with a warning to owners: “It is your responsibility to read the complete Code of Practice to fully understand your cat’s welfare needs and what the law requires you to do.”

Dog owners are given detailed instructions on ensuring their pets do not become lonely or isolated as “dogs are a social species and need the company of people, dogs or other animals”.

Bill Wiggin, the Tory spokesman on animal welfare, is quoted in an article in the Telegraph calling the new codes “absurd … Defra has missed the opportunity to produce a set of sensible proposals that would protect animals from abuse and mistreatment. Here we have this ridiculous guide which tells people not to walk their dog in the heat of the day or feed it at the table. DEFRA are taking people for fools.”

However, as an RSPCA spokesman pointed out, “A new washing machine or pot plant comes with instructions, currently most pets do not. We think the new codes of practice will improve animal welfare and prevent animal suffering through education.”

What do you think?

It is simplistic, common-sense advice, and perhaps a little heavy-handed, but as anyone who’s viewed a dog overheating in a parked car knows, a lot of people still seem to need it — on both sides of the pond.

Perhaps there should even be a companion volume for raising children.


Comment from carey
Time November 6, 2008 at 11:43 am

Unfortunately, I think this needs to be given to every dog owner across the world.