The 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing PAW report reveals “quite shocking” number of owners did not undertake research before taking on a pet.

Almost one in four UK pet owners – some 5.2 million people – took on a pet without doing any research, according to the 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report.

The figure – representing 24% of owners – has been described as “quite shocking” by PDSA senior vet Rebecca Ashman, who believes lack of knowledge prior to committing to pet ownership is a contributory factor to growing welfare issues surrounding pets today.

Speaking on behalf of the 100-year-old charity, she said: “I think the overarching point from this PAW report is 5.2 million people undertook no research before they took on their pet.

“I think that’s quite shocking and we feel a lot of problems people see in practice could be resolved if potential owners were doing research really thoroughly to understand the welfare needs of the pet they’re going to take home.

“It’s things like 40% of owners don’t know their dog’s correct weight or body condition score, 77% of owners would like to change one or more of their cat’s behaviours – without understanding why the animal is behaving that way – and why more than half of rabbits are still living alone.

“These big points show if people really understood how to look after their pet well, we hopefully wouldn’t see problems with pet obesity, cats scratching furniture and social animals living alone.”

Engage with owners

Mrs Ashman continued: “I think the best chance we have of improving the situation is engaging with owners as much as we can.

“At the moment, only 5% of owners turn to the profession before they take on a pet.

“That’s a statistic I’d really like to see improve because we are the best place to offer evidence-based information to help people make an informed choice before they take on a pet.

“That way, they’ll know what the five welfare needs are, the lifetime costs of a pet and where to responsibly source the pet from.”

Mrs Ashman readily acknowledged many vets and VNs were already trying hard to engage with owners, and applauded their efforts, but suggested the profession needed to step up another gear.

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