Animal welfare organisations have united to send a strong message to potential dog owners to do their homework before buying a new dog or puppy.
The Blue Cross, British Veterinary Association (BVA), BVA Animal Welfare Foundation (BVA AWF), Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC), Defra, Dogs Trust, Kennel Club, PDSA, RSPCA and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) have signed up to a set of 10 practical guidelines to help prospective owners choose the right puppy for them.
The guidelines (listed below) have been drawn up by the Dog Breeding Stakeholder Group and are intended to ensure that owners fully understand the health and welfare needs of the dog they are purchasing and can check that the dog has received the appropriate medical care, socialisation and screening.
The Group has also signed up to three overarching welfare principles:
1. Every dog should be born with the best possible chance of living a healthy and happy life, well suited to its intended lifestyle.
2. All those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed, in order to protect the welfare of both the parents and offspring.
3. All those who benefit from dogs have a collective responsibility to work together to protect dog welfare.
Commenting on the launch of “Guidance on choosing your new dog”, Nicky Paull said:
“Buying a puppy or dog is a serious undertaking and I am delighted that the members of the Group have put their individual politics aside in order to work together in the interests of dog welfare.
“All of us feel very strongly that educating potential puppy and dog owners to make the right choices is an essential part of promoting responsible breeding and responsible pet ownership.
“We have all signed up to the principle that all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed. If potential owners understand what they should expect from a breeder then good practice will be promoted.”
The Dog Breeding Stakeholder Group is also currently considering drawing up a ‘puppy contract’ to help owners and breeders at the point of sale.
Guidance on choosing your new dog (available here).
The Dog Breeding Stakeholder Group believes that as a prospective dog owner you should:
1. Carry out your research first. Different dogs have different needs and temperaments depending on, for example, their age, breed, health status, gender, and past experiences. A vet will also be able to give you information and advice on this; you can also get advice from the organisations associated with this document.
2. Take into account the average lifespan of the dog you would like to own and the estimated costs of lifetime care (both financially and in terms of your own time) before buying. Consider asking a pet insurance company how much it will cost to insure the type of dog you are considering taking on.
3. Make sure that the dog you choose is suitable for you, your home and your lifestyle. A vet will also be able to give you information and advice on the health problems that certain breeds are prone to; you can also get advice from the organisations associated with this document.
4. Bear in mind your “duty of care” obligations under the Animal Welfare Act, which states that pet owners MUST ensure that each of the five welfare needs for animals under their care are met.
These include the need:
For a suitable environment (place to live)
For a suitable diet
To exhibit normal behaviour patterns
To be housed with, or apart from, other animals
To be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease
5. Avoid buying animals with exaggerated physical features that are likely to affect their quality of life, and don’t base your decision on appearance alone. You should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing a dog.
6. Always see your puppy with its real mother in the environment where it was raised, and ask to see its brothers and sisters, if they are still there. Make sure that you know who the father is and that you get an opportunity to contact its owner. Ensure that the parent(s) and the puppies are happy and healthy and that the environment is suitable to meet all the puppy’s welfare needs.
7. It is important to ensure that your puppy is well socialised and has had appropriate good experiences. Ideally, your puppy should also have had good experiences with people, some other types of animals and in the places and situations it is likely to encounter as an adult, including a normal home environment.
8. Ask to see the puppy’s health records and ensure that these are available by the time you buy the puppy (this includes any records of vaccination, worming and flea treatment as well as other veterinary treatment). Also check that the puppy’s parents have taken appropriate health screening tests relevant to the breed and ask if the puppy or its parents have received any veterinary attention relating to an inherited problem. These should be available for you, or your vet, to take a look at.
9. Make sure your puppy stays with its mother until a suitable age. This may vary, but normally would be until 8 weeks of age.
10. For pedigree puppies, ensure that any recognised registration papers and the parents’ hereditary disease screening certificates, where appropriate, are in order and available at the time you buy the puppy.
11. Defra is soon to publish the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Code will provide further advice and guidance to dog owners on their duty of care to their animals. More information is available from Defra.
12. The British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation (BVA AWF) is the BVA’s own animal welfare charity committed to improving the welfare of all animals through science, education and debate. For further information about the charity please visit: www.bva-awf.org.uk