PDSA report shows increase in irresponsible ownership

Results from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2013 have revealed worrying statistics regarding pet ownership within the UK. The report, which has been conducted annually by the PDSA and YouGov since its launch in 2011, highlights issues within the ownership of the three most popular pets, and has led the charity to create a digital ‘pet check’ that owners can use to receive advice regarding the five welfare needs outlined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. These ‘needs’ are the minimum legal requirements that must be provided for animals kept in England and Wales; a suitable environment, a suitable diet, freedom to express natural behaviours, to be housed with or apart from other animals and to be protected from injury, pain, suffering and disease.

According to the report, 2.7 million dogs in the UK are not receiving adequate daily exercise, with 25% of dogs regularly being left alone for more than five hours each day. Being cooped up in a house for such long periods must be completely alien to a species designed for social contact and, in the case of many breeds, with the stamina to run for miles. Unexpended energy is often channelled through destructive or aggressive behaviours, and it is worth noting that at least one of the dogs involved in the fatal attack on Jade Anderson in March was not being given daily exercise and was often confined to a small crate. Dogs were not the only animals found to be suffering; one in four cats in the UK are overweight and around 2.3 million are not being vaccinated against fatal diseases such as Feline Influenza. Rabbits, often referred to as the most neglected species, are also not having their basic needs met, with a staggering 650,000 of them being kept in ‘solitary confinement’ and a further 180,000 being deprived of daily exercise.

Whilst the fact that millions of the nation’s pets are being denied the ‘five freedoms’ necessary for a healthy life is a major cause for concern in itself, another statistic could also spell trouble for people. According to the report, around 4.5 million dogs in the UK had not received formal obedience training by the age of six months. This means that more than half of the UK’s dog population are potentially unsocialised, a major cause for fearful aggression. Missing out on obedience classes also means a lack of general training knowledge on the part of the owner, meaning that any behavioural problems that may arise could be dealt with inappropriately, which is likely to have a negative impact on the dog and any future interactions with people. 88.8 percent of dogs that bite have never been given any obedience training, according to author Stanley Coren. Indeed, the average ‘status dog’ that bites and the dog found straying that killed Lexi Branson both have a lack of general training in common. Perhaps the reason for the lack of training is due to owners having insufficient funds available for training their dog, which begs the question of why they chose to own one (and how they afford to pay for their Sky television).

Unfortunately it is all too easy for owners to bypass obedience classes, which provide a lot more than ‘sit and stay’, just as it is all too easy to fall victim to an attack from an unsocialised, fearful and ‘stir crazy’ dog. With the PDSA report demonstrating a significant increase in irresponsible ownership in comparison to 2012, it is a sad fact that there are likely to be many more victims, both canine and human, in the near future.

Full details of the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report can be found here.

Further information on how the Animal Welfare Act 2006 applies to dog ownership can be found on this DEFRA publication.

To find a dog trainer in your area registered with the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, click this link.

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