Not only is it against the law to be cruel to an animal, you must also ensure that all the welfare needs of your animals are met. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met.
The role of the Trading Standards Team is to inspect businesses and investigate complaints concerning pet animals. There are two categories of such businesses:
- Local authority licensed businesses
These include dog-boarding kennels, catteries, pet shops (that sell pets), dog breeders, home boarders of dogs and riding schools. These businesses are legally required to be licensed by their local authority.
- Non licensed businesses
These include dog groomers, pet sitters, dog walkers, livery yards, dog racing tracks, animal sanctuaries and boarders of animals other than cats and dogs.
The main purpose of the inspection is to ensure that the welfare needs of the animals are being met. The welfare needs are based upon any applicable licence conditions, the Animal Welfare Act 2006, Welsh Government Codes of Practice and veterinary advice.
The Five Freedoms
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it a legal requirement for pet owners and pet businesses to ensure that the needs of an animal are met. These needs are known as 'The Five Freedoms' and are as follows:-
Need for a suitable environment - for example:
- A rabbit hutch must have at least two compartments, one for sleeping and another for eating and relaxing. The living area should be big enough for the rabbit to lie down and stretch out comfortably in all directions, high enough for it to stand up on its back legs without its ears touching the top and long enough for it to move around, feed and drink. As a guide it should be able to hop three times from one end to another as a minimum.
- Cats need opportunities to climb and jump such as a simple platform type bed or safe access to shelves and tops of cupboards.
- If a dog is kept outside, it's environment must be secure to prevent it escaping or roaming and to prevent the intrusion of other animals.
Need for a suitable diet - for example:
- Cats are true carnivores and eat meat – they cannot be vegetarians.
- Where loose horses are fed in groups there should be one feeder per horse plus an extra feeding point.
- Dogs must be fed at least once a day, but generally it is advised to feed them twice a day. They must also have access to water at all times.
Need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns - for example:
- Scratching or claw conditioning is normal behaviour for cats - providing a scratching post meets this need and prevents damage to household furniture!
- Social training for dogs in important from an early age – it is easier to change the behaviour of a puppy that nips than to deal with a dog that bites.
- Rabbits should be mentally stimulated. Bored rabbits quickly become unhappy, unhealthy and possibly aggressive.
Any need to be housed with or apart from other animals - for example:
- Dogs should not be routinely left on their own for more than a few hours during the day as they are likely to become bored, leading to barking or destructive behaviour.
- Rabbits are social animals and should ideally be kept with another rabbit. Provide safe toys to play with and chew and regular opportunities to play with people or other friendly rabbits.
- It is best not to keep too many cats together, especially if they do not have access to the outside. Cats are by nature very solitary animals so this could be very stressful for them.
Need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease - for example:
- Horses should have their teeth inspected by a vet or qualified equine dental technician at least once a year.
- A rabbits rear end should be checked everyday for soft droppings that are stuck as these attract flies, which can lay eggs and cause fly strike, which is often fatal.
- A long haired dog will need more coat attention than a short-haired one and will need grooming daily to keep it's coat free from matts and tangles. However all dogs need regular grooming and occasional bathing to keep their skin and coats well maintained.
Making a complaint
If you are concerned about the welfare of an animal that is a privately owned pet you need to call the RSPCA on tel: 0300 1234 999.
If you are concerned about the welfare of an animal that is under the care or control of a commercial business you need to report this to us in any of the following ways:
- Call Trading Standards on 01495 235291
Education is fundamental to the long term objective of promoting standards of animal welfare in Wales and minimising the need for enforcement by local authorities.
- The Welsh Government has produced a workbook on pet welfare, which is aimed at 7 – 11 year olds. We are in the process of distributing this workbook to a number of primary schools following which copies will be offered to community groups such as brownies and cubs.
- In conjunction with the dog warden service, for the past two years a project has been run which involves the dog warden giving talks to school children on pet care. Each child is then invited to enter a drawing competition with the winning pictures being included in a wall calendar, which promotes pet welfare.
- Trading Standards will be at the Big Cheese Festival this year. The theme of the stand will be pet welfare and will provide a variety of information on looking after pets along with competitions for children and adults. The dog warden will also be present.