Millions of pets are being taken on with little or no research into what they need to live healthy and happy lives. And this lack of knowledge can result in stressed, lonely, obese and aggressive pets, according to the UK’s leading vet charity in its ground-breaking report released today.
Findings from the fifth annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report*, the largest, most comprehensive insight into the state of our pet nation, shows millions of pets are still suffering in silence.
Produced by PDSA in conjunction with YouGov, the PAW Report is the biggest-ever annual survey of pet owners and veterinary professionals, uncovering the truth about pet wellbeing in the UK.
A ‘want it now’ consumer culture is evident in pet purchasing with over 4.5 million owners doing no research at all before getting a pet. Familiarity with the Animal Welfare Act has decreased significantly over the last five years, with less than one third (31%) of pet owners stating they are familiar with their responsibility as a pet owner as detailed in this legislation which outlines the basic welfare needs of our pets.
Commenting on the worrying findings, PDSA Head of Pet Health and Welfare, and vet, Nicola Martin, said: “PDSA’s research shows that as a nation, we’re still in love with the idea of pet ownership with over half of UK households owning a pet and 88% of pet owners believing that owning a pet improves their lives. But impulse acquisitions and busy lifestyles mean some people are totally unprepared for the realities, and the effort, that owning a happy, healthy pet entails.
“Sadly, too many people are continuing to underestimate the financial cost and the importance of choosing the right pet for their lifestyle before taking on a new pet. Ultimately, this is contributing to the suffering of millions of pets.”
Five years on from the inaugural PAW Report, millions of dogs are still being left alone for long periods of time, with owners vastly underestimating the lifetime costs of their pets. In dogs, this can be up to fifty times more than owners expect**.
Alongside this nearly a quarter (22%) of pet owners would still consider getting a dog from a puppy farm; an intensive establishment where dogs are bred in high volumes for profit, with little or no consideration for the health or welfare of puppies or breeding bitches.
“This needs to change and we all need to stop and think whether we are providing everything that our pets need to live healthy and happy lives,” added Nicola Martin.
#PawsFirst campaign launched to tackle the welfare issues
To tackle these serious welfare issues, PDSA is launching #PawsFirst – a campaign which highlights the problem of rushing into getting a pet without understanding their needs***.
“Our #PawsFirst initiative encourages prospective pet owners to ask themselves if they are prepared for every aspect of pet ownership, challenging a developing culture of ‘click and collect’ for buying pets,” said Nicola.
“PDSA wants to help turn public affection for pets into positive action by helping them find all the relevant information before making a decision.”
PDSA’s new Get PetWise quiz provides practical information to help people understand if pets are suitable for them and their lifestyle. We would also encourage people to speak to their local vet practice for more advice, or to visit a reputable online resource, such as PDSA’s website, which contains extensive expert information about popular pets and what’s involved in their care.”
Released today, findings from this year’s PAW Report, which surveyed over 33,000 pet owners and veterinary professionals, exposes the alarming reality of how millions of UK pets are living:
- 2.3 million dogs (25% of the UK dog population) are routinely left alone for five hours or more, while advice suggests that four hours should be the maximum time.
- 28% of dog owners believe it’s acceptable to regularly leave a dog home alone on a typical day for SIX to TEN hours.
- 465,000 dogs (5%) are never taken for a walk (on the lead for ten minutes or more)**** despite daily walks and socialisation with other dogs being essential for a dog’s physical and mental health.
- 465,000 dogs (5%) show aggression towards other pets every week.
- 2.6 million cats (24% of the UK cat population) live indoors all the time, which could be causing stress and contributing to feline obesity.
- 4.8 million cats (44%) live in multi-cat households and of these 58% have to share their food and water bowls and 50% their litter tray, which can be source of significant stress for cats.
- 2.8 million cats (26%) have never been vaccinated, leaving them susceptible to fatal diseases.
- Nearly 700,000 rabbits (57% of the UK rabbit population) live alone, potentially causing mental suffering for the highly-social animals.
- 29% of rabbit owners feed rabbit muesli, despite this leading to painful dental disease and poor nutrition.
- 29% of rabbits are provided with less than the recommended amount of hay, which is an amount equivalent to their body size or more every day.
The charity says that by working together with pet owners, the veterinary profession, other animal welfare organisations and the Government, positive change can be achieved and these serious issues can be tackled.
President of the British Veterinary Association, Sean Wensley, said: “For the past five years, the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report has highlighted where pets’ needs are not being met, what progress has been made, and on what scale. Issues such as social isolation in dogs and rabbits, and obesity in all species, must be understood and addressed if we are to claim that we are treating our companion animals fairly.
“Improving animal welfare is a top priority for BVA and we support our members to help address issues such as those revealed by the PAW Report.”
Thinking about getting a pet? #Pawsfirst and Get PetWise at www.pdsa.org.uk/pawsfirst
Case Study: Maggie
Dog lovers Gary and Samantha Crouch, from Fareham, Hants, inadvertently fell victim to the cruel puppy trade when they bought their five-month-old crossbreed puppy, Maggie, who was left fighting for her life.
When searching for a small dog to join their home, they spotted a local online advert. They went to visit the breeder and came home with an adorable bundle of fluff – Maggie, a Pom-Chi (Pomeranian Chihuahua cross).
But just a week after joining her new home, Maggie became dangerously ill; vomiting and passing severe bloody diarrhoea. She was rushed to the vet, which is when the Crouch’s nightmare really began. Maggie’s immune system was failing and the vet suspected she had parvovirus, which can be fatal. She spent the next ten days fighting for her life. Her weight plummeted and she lost the sight in one eye.
Gary said: “We didn’t think we were dealing with a puppy farmer and completely fell for their lies. We paid £350 for Maggie and were told she was nine-weeks-old. We were led to believe she had been well-looked after and socialised. But within days of getting her home, we knew something was wrong: she was very small, clingy and we were having to hand feed her. At first we assumed it was because of her breed and she was just missing her mum.”
To date the family have spent over £4,500 on veterinary treatment for Maggie, who thankfully is on the road to recovery. Tragically, this wasn’t the case for all of Maggie’s littermates: the family traced some of her brothers and sisters who suffered similar problems but sadly did not survive.
Gary added: “The vets believe she was probably only four or five weeks old when we brought her home – far too young to leave her mum. Her parents were also unlikely to have been vaccinated – leaving Maggie without the protection normally passed on from the mum and at very high risk of picking up parvovirus and other serious diseases.”
The family are now helping to raise awareness of the heartbreak puppy farming can cause: “We were naive. We don’t want other people to be conned in the same way or go through the terrible trauma that we have experienced. We fully support PDSA’s PawsFirst campaign and encourage people to do their research before taking on a pet. I’d definitely encourage people to get expert advice before making impulse buys,” concluded Gary.
Find out more about Maggie’s story on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/maggiemakinghermark