Social media and ‘Insta-famous’ pets fuelling animal welfare crisis

A new report from PDSA has revealed that 5.2 million (around one in four) UK pet owners undertook no research at all before taking on their pet, fuelling needless suffering to millions of animals.

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% of owners feel informed about all of a pet’s 5 Welfare Needs – the basic requirements to lead happy, healthy lives – worryingly, only around 1 in 8 people (13%) 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.

In response, we have launched an easy online tool (bigpetquiz.pdsa.org.uk) which helps measure the health and happiness of the nation’s pets based around their 5 Welfare Needs. It offers personalised advice to owners about how they can make simple adjustments to benefit their pet’s wellbeing.

“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. A prime example of this is the recent trend for flat-faced dogs such as Pugs or French Bulldogs – tragically many take them on not realising the serious health conditions that they can suffer from due to the shape of their faces.

“Most of us wouldn’t dream of buying a new car or booking a holiday without researching all of the options and the costs involved,” Olivia said, “but too often, little thought is going into the time, commitment and money involved in raising a happy and healthy pet throughout their lifetime.”

British Veterinary Association president, John Fishwick, added: “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.”

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