UK pet owners buying animals “on a whim” risk leaving millions of them lonely: report

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Around one in four pet owners in the UK were causing needless suffering to millions of animals as they undertook no research at all before taking on their pet, the country’s leading veterinary charity warned Wednesday.

A report from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) revealed that 24 per cent of pet owners carried out no preparatory work ahead of bringing an animal into their home, a figure equating to 5.2 million people.

Britain has a long-held reputation as a nation of animal lovers.

Findings from the 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report have revealed that this lack of research and preparation can leave well-intentioned owners ill-equipped to meet their pets’ welfare needs.

The Report also showed that, while 74 per cent of owners feel informed about all of a pet’s five Welfare Needs the basic requirements to lead happy, healthy lives worryingly, only around 1 in 8 people (13 per cent) surveyed could correctly identify all five from a list.

Without proper research, potential pet owners may rely on an unrealistic portrayal of pets in films and across social media. This can result in impulse-buying of pets without understanding how to look after them, leading to needless suffering to millions of animals, the veterinary charity said.

“Owners undoubtedly love their pets and want to do the best by them. However, failure to do the right research beforehand means that owners aren’t fully equipped to do that. The results of our PAW Report reveal problems with lonely, overweight and stressed pets across the UK”, says PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan.

“Unfortunately, it seems that some owners are also taking on pets off the back of trends; maybe they’ve seen a certain type of pet in a film or on social media. Whilst this is done with all good intentions, it’s worrying if it’s done without any research or consideration of an animal’s health and happiness,” Olivia said.

British Veterinary Association President, John Fishwick, said: “Anyone who owns or cares for animals knows that choosing a pet to join your family is a big decision. It’s vitally important to get the relationship off to the right start by ensuring you pick the best species and breed for your particular circumstances.

Despite the average person finding the time to spend an entire day scrolling social media every week, owners aren’t prioritising the same time for their pooches.

The 2018 PAW Report found that one million dogs (24 per cent) are routinely left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday, four million dogs (16 per cent) are walked less than once a day and 89,000 (one per cent) are not walked at all.

Cats face an equally troubling time as many owners fail to provide for their welfare needs, the report said.

Despite being naturally solitary animals, 4.8 million cats (43 per cent) live with at least one other cat, with 2.1 million (19 per cent) living with another cat or cats that they don’t get along with.

The 2018 PAW Report found that owners are not providing enough resources per cat in their household (such as feeding bowls, litter trays and scratching posts), a known cause of chronic stress.

The 2018 PAW Report also highlighted results suggesting that bunnies are still one of the most misunderstood of all UK pets.

Despite being incredibly social animals 540,000 rabbits (54 per cent) live alone, and often in inadequate living conditions, which can cause immense suffering.

Total sample size was for the pet owners’ survey was 4,639 dog, cat and rabbit owners aged 18+ who live in the UK. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the population by pet species (cat, dog or rabbit owners) and the owner’s gender, age and region, a press release from PDSA said.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 590 veterinary professionals. The survey was carried out online through an open link. The figures have not been weighted, the release said.

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