We know how important pets are to people’s lives – 94% of owners agreed that owning a pet made them happy and 84% agreed that owning a pet improves their mental health. However, does this translate into good care for our pets, especially as only 14% of owners had heard of the 5 Welfare Needs before completing the PAW Report survey?
While the long-term trend since 2011 has shown some positive changes to the welfare of UK pets, the findings this year do not seem to show continued improvement. There has been no increase in regular vaccine uptake, half of all rabbits are still living alone, often in unsuitable accommodation, and many of our pets are displaying concerning behaviours which could be linked back to stress, anxiety, and frustration due to a number of factors including genetics, experiences such as inadequate socialisation when young, inadequate companionship, and environmental considerations32. Overall, the findings do not depict an entirely positive picture of companion animal welfare in the UK.
There have been serious impacts on human wellbeing over the past two years, initially through the COVID-19 pandemic and now ongoing due to the cost of living crisis and other worldwide events. It is absolutely vital that despite these human costs, we continue to monitor and report on pet welfare, to ensure that we don’t lose any progress we have made and to identify and track emerging concerns.
Ensuring the welfare of our pets needs to start well before a new pet is brought home. Deciding to share your life with an animal should be thought about carefully, with consideration given to the pet’s needs as well as your own. Yet 20% of owners told us they did no research before acquiring their pet, and only 18% looked into the cost of owning a pet. Owning a pet takes commitment –of finance, emotion and time. When asked, 30% of owners agreed that owning a pet is hard work, 40% agreed that it is 'expensive' and 16% agreed that it 'makes me stressed'.
This highlights that despite the numerous benefits of pet ownership such as a reduction in loneliness - 84% of owners believe a pet makes them feel less lonely - the care of a pet is something that should not be considered lightly. We need to ensure both the welfare of the pet and wellbeing of the carer is considered, especially when approaching pet welfare issues.
Pet owners need support, and the PAW Report highlights the areas that need to be targeted to drive positive change. It is essential that we continue to work towards understanding and overcoming the barriers owners have to providing the care that pets require, and helping them learn about how to take care of their pets, especially at a time with so many competing voices. The veterinary profession and the wider animal welfare community have a vital role to play in using both empathy and evidence-based information to guide owners to help them improve their pet’s wellbeing.
Get in contact with the team
To contact the team, please email email@example.com
The online launch for the 2022 PAW Report
The findings from the 12th PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report were discussed by a panel of expert speakers, including Sean Wensley (PDSA), Richard Saunders (RWAF), Justine Shotton (BVA), Samantha Gaines (RSPCA), Sarah Heath (Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine) and Alex German (University of Liverpool).
32. Miklósi, Á., Turcsán, B., & Kubinyi, E. (2014). The personality of dogs. In The Social Dog (pp. 191-222). Academic Press.