Animal Welfare.

Something that any Veterinarian is passionate about, and that I feel is particularly pertinent at the moment, is the United Kingdom’s strict legislation regarding animal welfare, and what got me thinking about this subject was Denmark. Now you might be thinking “how on earth did ‘Denmark’ lead to ‘Animal Welfare’?”, and the answer is Mink.

Denmark, as the world’s largest producer of Mink fur, has recently been in the headlines for the discovery that Covid-19 virus has mutated within these animals and has ‘jumped’ from them to us humans. Critics of the fur trade, and animal rights’ activists, have suggested that it is the close quarters that the Mink live in that have contributed to this occurrence, and it is true that infection thrives in a compact environment.

Having had this initial train of thought, I pondered over the myriad areas covered by the animal welfare umbrella and jotted down some thoughts and facts that I’d like to share with you now.

The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 brought together, and took precedence over, in excess of 20 other legislative acts. There were several benefits of this act: tougher penalties for cruelty and neglect of animals, harsher monetary fines (up to £20, 000) and jail terms (up to 51 weeks), and the ability of judges to impose lifetime bans on keeping animals in the most extreme cases local authority inspectors (although not RSPCA personnel) and Her Majesty’s Constabulary were afforded more powers to step in if pet neglect was suspected. Significantly, a welfare offence was introduced for the first time with the passing of 2006’s Animal Welfare Act; pet owners now had a ‘duty of care’ to provide basic needs (water, food, shelter and Veterinary treatment) for their animal/s, something which had only applied to farmers and their stock previously.

Social media has made it a lot easier for neglect and/or abuse of animals to be reported, and it has also helped to reunite lost pets with their owners too. In local communities especially, there are posts about lost and found animals, and because the vast majority of folk use one or more platform (and pretty much everyone ‘knows’, or is ‘friends’ with everyone else!) it often leads to pets getting home without even having been taken to the local vets, dog warden or rescue centre.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having your beloved pet microchipped, though; and make sure that contact details are kept up-to-date – it helps reunite you and your pet quicker!

Talking of rescue centres, the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team work closely with several local ones:

Lina’s Cat Rescue, Life Commitment, Hope Animal Rescue and Harley’s Hounds to name a few. I have written a couple of blogs about the rescues we work with, detailing their activities in more depth, so please feel free to pop and read these 🙂

Many animal shelters are, sadly, beginning to receive an influx of unwanted pets (mostly dogs) thanks to a surge of people buying a new pet in the first Covid lockdown in spring 2020. Now that these animals are maturing and don’t look so cute (?!) anymore – as well as needing more attention and effort for their wellbeing – the reality of pet ownership is biting, and these fur-babies are being handed in. Don’t get me wrong though, some animals are being surrendered for genuine reasons, such as the owner passing away or sudden unemployment. Pets can be a significant financial commitment: feed, insurance, routine vaccinations and treatments, medications, and emergency treatment all add up.

Ear cropping and tail docking for aesthetic purposes have also been made illegal in the UK; the exceptions being for private working dogs, forces’ working dogs, or health and safety reasons. These procedures can only be performed by Veterinarians, and this has been the subject of a previous ‘Karl’s Corner’ blog should you wish to read it. Sometimes we Vets have to carry out cropping or docking in an emergency due to injury, either from undocked dogs in the field or as victims of illegal dog fighting. Dog fighting has been banned in the UK under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which bans ‘the fighting or baiting of animals’; this act also protects Badgers from being dug out or baited from their setts.

Bonfire Night always causes a fair amount of debate and controversy too: should the public be allowed to buy fireworks? Should fireworks only be allowed on certain nights? Should fireworks be so loud? Here at SLVC we always see an upturn in demand for sedatives and give out advice on how to calm pets, and I have written a blog (with some handy hints in) previously, which is online for you to read if you wish to. The Animal Welfare Act of 2006, mentioned earlier, specifically states that that ‘fireworks must not be set off near livestock or horses in fields, or close to buildings housing livestock’. Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to smaller pets such as cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs or ferrets etc., so I would advise that if your pet is housed outside that you bring them and their enclosure inside if possible. Also make sure that garden gates are shut; we get lots of animals handed in that have bolted from home when scared!

If I could say one thing to you it would be to hug your pet and let them know they’re loved; enjoy them 1000% and be happy that their welfare is being taken care of in your home. As always, if you have any queries then please contact the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team – we’re always happy to help.

Until next time; stay safe (still socially distanced), stay well, and be happy 🙂