Warmer weather and lighter evenings mean more time spent enjoying our gardens, starting off with simple tasks such as weeding and planting. But it's important to remember that while many of the plants that we commonly keep are beautiful to look at - they're also capable of causing serious damage to the health of our precious pets.
The benefits for animals are very significant - anyone who is aware of the infamous Draize Eye test that forces shampoo into rabbits' eyes over several days will appreciate that change was overdue, especially as the non-animal alternative tests often have a better predictive value for actual human reactions.
Nowadays we all take for granted the medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century: diphtheria and polio vaccines, antibiotics, modern anaesthetics, the treatments for childhood leukaemia that have allowed so many children to live full and healthy lives. These all owed a huge debt to animal research. If we are to address the unmet medical needs of the 21st Century such as cures for dementia and stroke, then it is likely that some animal research will be necessary.
The Government's commitment in 2010 was quite clear: to "work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research". This week it was announced that in 2012, over 4.11 million experiments were carried out, with a 9% increase in the number of animals used. Rarely has a broken promise been so directly exposed by reality.
It's no surprise that children love the idea of keeping a rabbit as a pet - they are exceptionally cute and fluffy, and particularly at this time of year. But before you decide to take a trip to the pet shop, please stop and think for a moment whether you are ready to take on the responsibility of looking after quite a complex little creature.
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.
Sadly pet obesity is now one of the major issues affecting pet health in the UK. It's often unrecognised by pet owners, who may not notice gradual weight gain, or may simply regard a chubby pet as cuddly and well-fed. Yet, as with us humans, obesity is linked to serious problems such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and a shorter life expectancy.