The animal image: guidelines for advertisers

To help companies promote positive animal health and welfare across a range of species, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has launched a set of pet advertising guidelines last week, with support from members of the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition

83% of UK vets say they are concerned about the inappropriate representation of animals in adverts, according to the BVA’s Voice of the veterinary profession survey. BVA president Simon Doherty commented: “Images of cute, funny and cuddly pets grab our attention and pull at our heartstrings, so it’s no surprise that advertisers use them to be the face of their brand. While the individual pets in the adverts might be well-cared-for, our concern is with the way they are often depicted and its impact on the wider pet population.

“Often the welfare issues affecting the animals are not immediately obvious to an untrained eye, but we know vets and vet nurses are very concerned by issues such as the normalisation of potentially harmful or misleading behaviour and the use of popular breeds who suffer because of the way they have been bred.”

More than two in five vets (44%) recalled seeing adverts over the past month that featured images of pet animals unable to exhibit normal behaviour, depicted in an unsafe scenario (31%), or shown in an unsuitable environment (24%), among other concerns.

By far the most commonly cited adverts, seen by more than three-quarters of vets, were those that showed pets with exaggerated features or extreme conformation, such as pugs or Persian cats. BVA’s #BreedtoBreathe campaign this year has highlighted how sustained efforts by concerned members of the public and the veterinary profession can help, as big brands including Marks & Spencer, HSBC and Lidl have pledged not to use images of flat-faced dogs in ads or on social media in the future.

Simon Doherty added, “Our guidelines also give animal lovers and pet owners across the country an easy reference to assess portrayals of pets in ads, and we would encourage them to join us in alerting brands who inadvertently use inappropriate images in their campaigns.”

For members of public or the veterinary profession concerned by any adverts, BVA has developed a template letter  to flag concerns to the brands in question.

Download the Pet advertising guidelines here