Page last updated at 22:39 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

'Woof guide' for Welsh pet owners

Dog sleeping
Animal cruelty cases increased to just under 140,000 per year in 2007

Wales has become the first country in the UK to publish official guidance to help animal owners take care of their dogs, cats, horses and donkeys.

The Welsh Assembly Government's code of practices inform people of their responsibilities as animal owners.

Cat owners, for instance, are told that their pets need to eat meat and cannot be turned into vegetarians.

Horse owners are warned to keep mares and stallions separate to "prevent aggression and amorous behaviour".

Recent RSPCA figures have shown an increase in the number of cruelty investigations in recent years.

In 2007 the organisation recorded just under 140,000 incidents of cruelty across England and Wales - up from 105,000 in 2003.

Cases of abandonment are also said to be on the rise, suggesting that not everyone has fully considered their responsibilities as animal and pet owners.

The new codes are around 50 pages long and have been prepared under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Farm animals are already subject to similar codes of practice and the act provides the same protection for pet animals and horses.

The advice for dogs asks owners to ensure their pets have comfortable, draught-free resting areas which they can safely retire to and that each animal is fed at least once, and ideally, twice a day.

Cat owners are asked to provide their pets with safe access to shelves and tops of cupboards so the cats have the opportunity to jump and climb.

Horse owners are also warned to avoid smoking near stables and to ensure any working horses are exercised for one hour in every six during the day.

Christianne Glossop, chief vet (centre), Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones [L] and Lizzie Ellis, Donkey Sanctuary
Keeping a pet is a privilege not a right, they need a great deal of care and it is the case that not everyone realises that a commitment is needed
Christianne Glossop, chief vet (centre)

The Codes of Practice for Dogs, Cats and Equines (which includes horses and donkeys) have all-party support with similar codes based on the Welsh version being prepared in England and Scotland.

Launching the codes at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran, Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones urged anyone thinking of taking on a pet to check out the guides to understand what they will be letting themselves in for.

"There may be people who will wonder why guidance is needed on the welfare of pet animals," she said.

"The sad truth is that while many people will care for their pet and provide them with a safe home for their lifetime far too many animals are subjected to cruel treatment and are abandoned.

"Cruelty figures continue to rise and we only have to look at reports in the media to see that this is a very real issue.

"Taking on a pet is a big responsibility. These guides set out what is expected if someone is considering having a pet."

Chief veterinary officer Christianne Glossop added: "Keeping a pet is a privilege not a right, they need a great deal of care and it is the case that not everyone realises that a commitment is needed when taking on a pet."

The Kennel Club had been heavily involved in putting the codes together and congratulated the assembly government on being the first in the UK to implement them.

Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: "We think that these codes represent a positive step forward in this area and we hope this will provide owners with a greater understanding of their duty of care under the Animal Welfare Act."

The director of veterinary services at Cats Protection Maggie Roberts added: "It is a positive step forward to ensure that all cats have their physical and emotional needs met."

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: "The code is a critical element of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 as it sets a baseline for meeting the needs of all horses.

"It provides helpful advice for existing and potential horse owners, as well as greatly assisting the authorities should problems arise."

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