The UK is undoubtedly a nation of animal lovers, but last year our PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report sadly revealed that many of our pets were not having their needs met. With the help of YouGov, PDSA surveyed thousands of pet owners, creating the largest report of its kind about the state of the country's pets.
It revealed that whilst pet owners in the UK definitely love their pets, the affection that owners have can often be misguided, and can even be detrimental to their pet's welfare, even though this is largely unintentional.
This year, the Report has focussed in on four of the most concerning issues:
• Problem behaviour and aggression in dogs caused by a lack of appropriate training and socialisation
• Inappropriate diets leading to pet obesity
• Lack of awareness in owners about the five welfare needs, in particular the lack of research done before taking on a new pet
• Lack of take up of preventive care, leaving pets at risk of life-threatening illnesses
Again the survey revealed some worrying statistics: 1.3 million dogs across the UK are displaying problem behaviour; 18.5 million dogs, cats and rabbits are being fed deadly diets; and 11.2 million pets are at risk of life threatening diseases due to not being vaccinated or neutered.*
Just as humans have basic health and welfare needs, so do animals, but the Report clearly showed that in many cases their individual needs are simply just not understood. As the UK's leading veterinary charity, we cannot ignore this important issue. We want to do everything we can to improve the long-term wellbeing of pets by helping owners understand what their pets really need to be healthy and happy.
I always regard pet ownership as a partnership - pets provide a lot for us and we have to reciprocate with love and the correct care as well as the basic essentials like food and water. But do you know what the five animal welfare needs are? If you're not sure, then have a look at this short video to find out.
The issue of dog behaviour and the dangers associated with it highlights the importance of socialisation in puppyhood. Our research showed that 65% of children have been scared by the way a dog has behaved, and nearly one-in-three owners have been bitten or attacked by a dog. Refreshingly, 95% of pet owners feel that dog owners must take full responsibility for their dog's behaviour, and that should include making sure their dogs are properly trained and socialised.
Worryingly, nearly a quarter (24%) of owners were not given any advice on any aspect of health or welfare when they got their pet. Many people appear to have no idea about the costs and long-term commitments involved when taking on a pet but all owners are responsible for the duty of care to any of their pets. Taking on a pet is a big responsibility, and as I vet I strive to make sure that potential pet owners know what they will have to provide for their pets.
Owning a pet can be a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience, with both physical and mental health benefits for owners. Pets give us unconditional love, and we owe it to them to ensure we can give them everything they need throughout their lives.
Download the report, share the news, and pledge to make #abetterlifeforpets.
*The PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2012: Survey of 3,956 dog, cat and rabbit owners, 466 Vets and Vet nurses, and 553 children was conducted online between 10 March and 23 May 2012 through the YouGov panel. Data is weighted to be representative of dog, cat and rabbit owners in the UK.