In search of pet Utopia - Veterinary Practice
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In search of pet Utopia

ANDREW COE is unimpressed by the codes of practice telling people how to look after their pets

IS it just me or are we really descending into cloud cuckoo land? What I’m referring to are the draft codes of practice for the welfare of cats and dogs published recently on the National Assembly for Wales website.

There are 20 pages for cats and 23 for dogs. Do we really need Government telling us in this level of detail how we should look after our pet dogs and cats when there are several hundred if not thousands of readily available books on the subject filling the shelves of our bookstores and libraries? Personally, I think not.

Who is going to read these codes? Granted, responsible pet owners might make time to pour over them after they have laboured through a 200-page tome on “Buying your first puppy/kitten”; another on “Training your dog”; and perhaps a third on “Piano for cats made easy”. But what extra exactly are they going to learn from it? Not very much is my view.

Carrying on as normal…

And the irresponsible pet owners? Well let’s be quite frank here. They are going to carry on as normal and the welfare codes will be dumped in some unfortunate layby along with a cigaretteburned three-piece suite and a redundant microwave oven.

Yes I know it’s easy to be flippant about the hours of painstaking work put in by a vast array of well-meaning animal welfare organisations (and the no doubt not inconsiderable expenses occurred during the process), but wouldn’t it be pretty easy to come up with something a little less complex that would fit neatly onto the back of a postcard? Say:

  • Before getting a dog/cat ask yourself if you have the time and desire to care for it.
  • Feed your dog/cat an appropriate diet (your vet, the internet and books can advise), and give it ad lib access to water.
  • Take advice from your vet on vaccinating and worming your dog/cat.
  • Socialise your puppy/kitten with people as soon as possible and with other dogs/cats as soon as vaccinated.
  • Take your dog to training classes.
  • Have your dog/cat neutered if you don’t intend breeding from it.
  • Exercise your dog (and yourself) regularly.
  • Provide your dog/cat with a clean/dry/warm place to sleep.
  • If your dog/cat is ill consult your vet without delay.
  • Take out pet insurance if you are concerned about vet fees.

So what else do you need to know? It beats me. Sure you can go on about grooming, and teeth cleaning, and fireworks, and cars, and litter trays (oh how I hate litter trays), and whatever else you want to. But with all due respect it is not Government’s job to create a state of Utopia for the dogs and cats of this country when conditions fall far short for many of its human citizens.

Are we really going to prosecute owners for leaving their dogs shut in the house from eight in the morning until six at night whilst they are at work, if the dogs live the life of Riley for the rest of the time?

Do we really need to be told that cats need:

  • a sleeping/resting area that is comfortable, dry and draught free. In multi-cat households there should be sufficient separate places for each cat to rest (what about sufficient space for the kids?);
  • areas to hide, such as an enclosed bed or a box, although some cats will prefer to hide under a chair or under your bed;
  • opportunities to climb and jump, such as a simple “platform”-type bed or safe access to shelves and the tops of cupboards.

The cat will quickly decide…

Unless I am very much mistaken, any cat allowed into the house will very quickly decide exactly where it is going to sleep without any input or provision from the owner.

And the biggest problem in my experience is getting it out from under the bed when you want to. With this in mind there should perhaps have been another bullet point on the welfare-friendly use of a broom or water pistol!

Consider the phrase “safe access to shelves or the tops of cupboards”. Come off it. Our shelves and cupboard tops are so filled with “stuff ” that the last thing I need is one of the cats clambering up onto them and in our house a few strategic “booby” traps to stop them doing just that is the order of the day.

I know I’m being facetious but I can’t help think that this is another case of the Nanny State taking things just a bit too far, no doubt with the best of intentions.

I’m just not certain that it’s good use of public money when goodness knows what percentage of kids leave school without being able to read or write and people die on waiting lists for operations or through being refused drugs considered to be too expensive. I adore dogs and I like cats – but let’s not forget who is the organ-grinder in this relationship and who the monkey.

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