UK pets at risk as two-thirds of owners unaware of legal welfare needs

Despite over half of UK households owning a pet, findings from the veterinary charity PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report shows that year-on-year owners’ awareness of their pets’ welfare needs remains consistently low[ii]. This has prompted leading veterinary organisations including the British Veterinary Association (BVA), British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), Blue Cross, British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), PDSA and RSPCA to launch a joint campaign to help pet owners better understand the complexities of their pet’s five welfare needs. 


PDSA research further shows that pet owners who feel more informed about each of the five welfare needs are significantly more likely to provide preventive healthcare to their pets, which might help mitigate the upset and potential need for emergency veterinary care[iii].


The 2006 Animal Welfare Acts of England and Wales, and Scotland consolidated and replaced more than 20 pieces of outmoded legislation. They established a duty of care, enshrining in law five animal welfare needs, outlining housing, diet, behaviour, social interactions and health as the legal responsibilities that every owner should meet to ensure their pet is as happy and healthy as possible.


James Yeates, vet and Chair of the Veterinary animal welfare coalition, said:

“The five welfare needs are a fantastic 'umbrella' guide to taking care of our pets, yet each and every species has such differing welfare needs - from cats who tend to be solitary animals and usually prefer to be the only pet to rabbits that should live in pairs or groups of other rabbits and dogs, who should not be left on their own for more than a few hours a day - it’s vital that pet owners can translate theory into practice. Our understanding of animal welfare science has come such a long way over the past 50 years so we'd really like pet owners to pop into their local veterinary practice, where they will be able to get tailored, up-to-date advice for their pets, whether that's a horse or a hamster!”


According to a recent survey by the British Veterinary Association[iv], vets' top welfare concern is a pet's diet, one of the five welfare needs, with vets reporting obesity, dental issues and other complex health problems as a result.


To mark the tenth anniversary of the Animal Welfare Acts, the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition is launching a new icon to raise awareness of the five welfare needs and remind pet owners to think about how these apply to their own animals.


To find out more about how the five welfare needs apply to your pet, please speak to your local veterinary practice team who are best placed to advise based on your pet's species, size and age.




Notes to Editors:

•               The Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition is a group of the UK’s leading veterinary organisations and charities delivering veterinary services, including the British Veterinary Association (BVA), British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), Blue Cross, British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), PDSA, RSPCA and USPCA. The Coalition was formed to meet the recommendations in the Vet Futures project and aims to deliver awareness raising and behaviour change communication campaigns, based around responsible pet ownership and the five welfare needs as outlined in the Animal Welfare Acts. More information is available at (to go live on Monday 7 November)

  • The new five welfare needs icon, developed by the Coalition to help raise pet owner awareness of the needs, is available in a range of resolutions and formats upon request.
  • The Animal Welfare Acts refer to the Animal Welfare Act (England and Wales) 2006, which received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006, and the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. The Welfare of Animals Act was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2011.
  • For further information, please contact BVA’s media office on or 020 7908 6340.