General Animal Welfare
Since the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 was enacted, specific requirements for pet owners and those responsible for animals have come into force. Before this, animal welfare law was mostly reactive and only took effect after animals had suffered unnecessarily. Section Nine of the act places a duty of care on dog business owners as well, stating that even if an animal is only in their temporary care (e.g., boarding, walking, or kennelling), reasonable steps must still be taken to meet the welfare needs of their animals.
“Welfare” is a broad term, and it entails many different factors. There are five basic tenements to animal welfare that you should bear in mind as you set up your dog business.
- Health – Anyone responsible for an animal is also responsible for protecting that animal from pain, injury, suffering, and disease to the best of their ability. They are also responsible for seeking proper treatment for illness or injury if it cannot be prevented.
- Behaviour – Animals should always be allowed to exhibit natural behaviours for their species. For dogs, this includes behaviours such as playing, running, digging, jumping, etc.
- Companionship – Animals should be housed with, or apart from, other animals as is appropriate for their species. More sociable species should be housed with their own kind, while most solitary species should be housed alone.
- Diet – A suitable diet is another important part of animal welfare. This can include feeding appropriately for the pet’s life stage and feeding a suitable amount to prevent both obesity and malnourishment. Animals should also always have access to fresh, clean water.
- Environment – All animals should be provided with a suitable environment. This includes providing your pet with the right type of home and a comfortable place to rest and hide as well as exercise and explore.
These five tenements can be easily applied to canine care, and it’s important to bear them all in mind as you think about your best practices and duty of care in your dog business. Here are some common canine welfare problems that you see when the above tenements are not taken into consideration properly:
Boredom & Frustration – This can be brought about from lack of exercise, being left alone for too long, barren environments, lack of stimulation, and more.
Suffering – There is no precise definition for canine suffering, but you’ll know it when you see it. This can come about from having a lack of bedding, not enough space to live in, living outdoors in an unsuitable (damp or cold) enclosure, lack of companionship, cruelty, being tied up, lack of exercise, being too cold or too hot, being hungry or thirsty, being punished, obesity, malnutrition, and more.
Pain – Pain in canines can result from disease and injuries not being properly treated, being forced to fight other dogs or wildlife, not being regularly groomed, overgrown nails, or the use of aversive equipment such as choke chains and electric collars.
Anxiety & Fear – There are many factors that can cause anxiety and fear in dogs. Some, like genetic predisposition, are not avoidable. However, this can also come from early experiences as a puppy, traumatic life events, unpredictable punishment, cruelty, and living in an unpredictable environment (e.g., stray dogs).
Any lover of dogs will tell you that they want to avoid these things, and any responsible pet owner will. However, as a dog business owner, it is imperative that the welfare of your clients’ pets is always at the forefront of your mind.
Beyond Canine Welfare
Canine welfare is really only the beginning of it. You also must think of canine health and canine behaviours, both of which you should have a firm grasp on before starting your own dog business. These lists are only the tip of the iceberg, and we recommend taking our Ofqual-approved courses in welfare, health, and behaviour to make sure you are fully prepared for the responsibilities that come with being entrusted with beloved pets.
If you are interested in taking a relevant regulated course, we recommend checking out the following:
Ofqual Award Level 3 Canine Care, Behaviour & Welfare – essential for meeting the higher standard rating under the Licensing of Activities Involving Animals – The Animal Welfare Regulations 2018