DEFRA Code of practice for the welfare of cats & dogs in the UK
Presented to Parliament pursuant to section 15 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
A) INTRODUCTION OF THE CODE.
There is no one “perfect” way to care for all dogs because every dog, and every situation, is different but they all have the same needs. It is up to you to find out what your cat/dog’s precise needs are and how to meet them. This Code of Practice applies to all cats and dogs. It does not tell you precisely how to care for your cat/dog but it does summarise important things you should know and what to do when making decisions about how best to care for your cat/dog. If you are unsure about anything to do with the care and welfare of your cat/dog, you should always seek advice from an expert such as a veterinary surgeon, mainly referred to as vet. You will also find reference within this Code to “other suitably qualified dog behaviourists or trainers” and "other suitably qualified cat care specialist".
A list of suitable organisations and places to find help are provided under paragraph D of this Code. You can find out more about the legislation relating to dogs at www.defra.gov.uk
B) WELFARE OF DOGS.
1. How to provide a suitable environment for your dog to live in.
What you should do:
• Provide your dog with a safe, clean, quiet environment. Make sure that you provide adequate protection from hazards.
• Provide your dog with a comfortable, clean, dry, quiet, draught-free rest area, which has appropriate ventilation and is lit either naturally or artificially.
• Provide your dog with somewhere they can go to avoid things that frighten them.
• If your dog is kept in a kennel, you should check them frequently and ensure they are not in danger or distressed.
• Provide your dog with access to an appropriate place, away from their resting area, which they can use as a toilet area regularly as needed and at least every few hours.
• Make sure that any place you leave your dog is large enough to provide, at all times, a comfortable area with effective ventilation and temperature control, and that your dog is able to move around to ensure its comfort, avoiding becoming too hot or too cold.
• When you transport your dog make sure they are comfortable and safe at all times.
• Do not leave your dog unattended in situations, or for periods of time that are likely to cause them distress or render them unsafe.
• Keep your dog under control and safe at all times and do not let them stray.
• If you are going away and not taking your dog, make sure they are only ever left with someone who can meet their welfare needs.
2. How to provide a suitable diet for your dog.
What you should do:
• Provide your dog with clean fresh drinking water at all times. If necessary carry water, in a suitable container, with you when clean water is unlikely to be available.
• Make sure your dog eats a balanced diet suitable for their individual needs and maintains a stable weight that is neither over nor underweight for their age, level of activity, sex, breed and state of health. Do not let your dog overeat or they will become obese, and do not feed too little or your dog will be underweight.
• Be aware that any change in the amount your dog eats or drinks may be a sign of ill health. If your dog’s eating or drinking habits change, consult your vet.
• Read, and be guided by, the feeding instructions relating to any dog foods you buy but adjust so that your dog does not become over or underweight.
• Provide all dogs (including puppies) that have special needs with diets that meet their individual requirements.
• Feed your adult dog at least once each day, unless advised otherwise by your vet.
• Do not change your dog’s diet suddenly. Changes should be made gradually over several days.
• You should not feed your dog shortly before, or after, strenuous exercise.
• If you are uncertain what to do you should seek advice on feeding your dog from a vet, veterinary nurse or other reliable source.
3. How to provide for your dog's natural needs.
What you should do:
• Make sure your dog has enough to do so that it does not become distressed or bored.
• Make sure your dog has access to safe toys and suitable objects to play with and chew.
• Ensure that your dog can rest undisturbed when it wants to. Puppies and older animals may need more rest.
• Provide your dog with regular opportunities for exercise and play with people or other friendly dogs.
• Give your dog the exercise it needs, at least daily unless your vet recommends otherwise, to keep your dog fit, active and stimulated.
• If you are unsure how much exercise your dog needs; take advice from your vet, veterinary nurse or other suitably qualified dog behaviourist or trainer.
• You should know the behaviour of your dog when it is fit and healthy and be able to recognise and understand the signals your dog and others use when they are worried, unsure, angry or happy, fit and healthy.
• All dogs need to be trained to behave well, ideally from a very young age and should be introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals.
• Reward based training methods including food, toys and praise are preferred in dog training systems.
• Your vet may refer you to a dog behaviour expert who should have a combination of qualifications, up to date knowledge, skills and experience and who treats dogs in such a way that their welfare is protected.
• If you become aware of changes in behaviour, or your dog is fearful of, or aggressive, towards other dogs and people, avoid the situations which lead to this and seek veterinary advice.
• You should ensure you prevent your dog from chasing or attacking any other animals, including livestock and horses through use of the lead or avoidance of such situations.
4. How to provide the right companionship for your dog.
What you should do:
• Make sure your dog has opportunities to spend enough time with people and friendly dogs so that it does not become lonely or bored.
• When dogs live together you should provide enough extra resources (e.g. toys, beds, food and water bowls and places where they feel safe) and space to stop them from becoming competitive and fighting with each other.
• Make sure that your dog is never left alone long enough for it to become distressed.
• Encourage your dog to be friendly towards other dogs and allow it to interact with friendly dogs on a regular basis.
• Puppies should be given regular and appropriate opportunities to learn how to interact with other dogs, animals and people.
• If your dog is not fully vaccinated check with your vet before mixing it with other dogs.
• You should always check health issues with your vet before allowing your puppy to mix with other dogs.
• Provide your dog with regular exercise, play and training.
• You should ensure that children are not left alone with your dog.
• If you keep more than one dog, you should keep them together for company if possible. They will need to get on with each other, but will also need space to get away from each other when they want to.
• You should ensure that dogs in your care are handled properly and are not stressed or endangered by other adults or animals, including those who look after your dog for you when you are away from home
• Be consistent, kind and gentle in the way you, your family and friends, react to your dog and do not encourage aggressive or other anti-social behaviour.
• When you are away, make sure your dog is properly cared for by a responsible person. When someone else is looking after your dog they also have a legal responsibility to ensure its welfare, and you should ensure that they understand its needs and any special requirements that it may have. You are still legally responsible for the dog even when they are not with you.
• If your dog is fearful of, or aggressive towards, other dogs or people avoid the situations that lead to this behaviour and seek advice from a vet, veterinary nurse or suitably qualified dog behaviourist or trainer.
5. How to keep your dog healthy and protect them from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
What you should do:
• Take sensible precautions to keep your dog safe from injury.
• Monitor your dog daily and watch out for signs of injury, disease or illness. Make sure someone else does this if you are away.
• If you notice changes in your dog’s behaviour you should contact your vet and follow the advice you are given.
• You should carefully check your dog’s coat regularly and groom your dog, as necessary, to maintain a healthy coat.
• You should ask your vet how often your dog needs a health check, and about the things you can do to protect your dog’s health. You should follow the advice you are given.
• Routine preventive healthcare, such as vaccination and treatments to control parasites (e.g. fleas and worms), as well as any current health problems your dog may have, is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy.
• Clean up your dog’s faeces to avoid disease transmission.
• Take sensible precautions to keep your dog safe including prevention of access to poisonous food, plants, chemicals and any other hazards.
• Only use medicines and drugs that have been prescribed for your individual dog.
• Human products and medicines intended for other animals can be dangerous to dogs and sometimes fatal. If you are unsure seek veterinary advice.
• You should always consult your vet if you are concerned that your dog has eaten or come into contact with anything that could be harmful.
• Your dog is required by law to wear a collar and identity tag when in a public place. Collars should be of the correct size and fit, and should not cause any pain or discomfort. Once your dog is microchipped, remember to keep the microchip database up to date with any changes in your contact details.
If you are considering having your dog neutered, your vet will be able to advise you about the best age to have this done.
• You should seek the advice of your vet before allowing your dog to breed and take all reasonable steps to ensure that you will be able to provide the care required during pregnancy as well as finding suitable homes for the puppies.
• If you recognise signs and symptoms of disease or suspect that your dog is in pain, ill or injured; contact a vet promptly and follow veterinary advice regarding their treatment. If at any time you have concerns about the health or welfare of your dog you should seek advice from a vet or veterinary nurse.
C) WELFARE OF CATS.
1. How to provide a suitable environment for your cat to live in.
What you should do:
• Provide your cat with a safe, comfortable, dry, draught-free, clean and quiet place where it can rest undisturbed. Ideally, there should be a range of such places available – the cat will choose where it is most comfortable.
• Take all reasonable steps to protect your cat from hazards indoors and outdoors.
• Make sure your cat has constant access to a variety of safe hiding places including elevated resting places, where it can feel safe.
• If your cat does not go outside, make sure it has plenty of activities to do and enough space to exercise, climb and play indoors.
• Your cat should be provided with a suitable toilet area, that is quiet, easily accessible and kept clean.
• Before you move your cat, you should gradually get it used to a secure cat carrier. Putting items which smell like the cat, for instance its blanket, in the carrier and any place you move your cat to can help it feel at ease.
• Any place where your cat is left must be large enough and comfortable with effective ventilation and temperature control so that your cat is able to move around to ensure its comfort, avoiding becoming too hot or too cold. Never leave your cat in an area where this is not possible such as a car on a warm day.
• Your cat should not be routinely kept in a cage.
• If you have any concerns about moving to a new home, or transporting your cat, you should consult a vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
2. How to provide suitable diet for your cat.
What you should do:
• Provide your cat with fresh clean drinking water at all times, preferably located away from their food source.
• Make sure your cat eats a balanced diet suitable for their individual needs.
• If you are uncertain of the diet your cat needs, take advice from your vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
• Read, and be guided by, the feeding instructions relating to any cat foods you buy. Adjust how much you feed your cat to make sure they do not become underweight or overweight.
• Feed your cat every day, and allow access to food several times a day, preferably splitting the daily ration into several small meals throughout the day, unless advised otherwise by your vet.
• Position your cat’s food and water well away from the litter tray, or things that they find frightening.
• Any changes to your cat’s diet should be made gradually.
• Be aware that any change in the amount your cat eats or drinks may be a sign of physical health or stress. If your cat’s eating or drinking habits changes consult your vet.
3. How to provide for your cat's natural behavioural needs.
What you should do:
• You should ensure your cat receives enough mental, social and physical stimulation to satisfy its individual behavioural needs.
• Provide your cat with safe toys and regular opportunities to play with friendly people and by itself. • Ensure that your cat is able to rest undisturbed and has somewhere to hide when it wants to.
• Make sure your cat has opportunities to exercise each day to stay fit, happy and healthy. If your cat does not go outside, provide suitable indoor activities to keep it active such as high places to rest and toys.
• If you are unsure how much activity is right for your cat, take advice from your vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
• Provide your cat with somewhere to scratch, such as a sturdy scratching post.
• Make sure that your cat can reach all the things that it needs (e.g. bed, food, water, litter or outdoors) without having to get too close to things, people or other animals that may scare it. You should know how your cat behaves when fit, healthy and happy and be able to recognise and interpret your cat’s body language.
• Never shout at or punish your cat. It will not understand and will just become more nervous or scared. You should only use positive reward-based training, such as food, toys and praise and avoid harsh, potentially painful, training methods.
4. How to provide the right companionship for your cat.
What you should do:
• If your cat likes people, provide regular contact with them even when you are away.
• Before getting more cats, think carefully how your existing cats will respond to company. Check that you will be able to look after each animal properly and seek advice on the best way to introduce the new cat into the home.
• If you have cats that are not friends, make sure they have the opportunity to avoid each other and that they can access everything they need (e.g. food, water, outside space, litter tray, rest area) without having to pass one another too closely.
• Do not force your cat to interact with people or animals that they do not like, and make sure they can avoid them.
• If more than one cat shares a living space, provide sufficient extra resources (e.g. toys, beds, litter trays and hiding places) and give them enough space so that they can get away from one another if they want to.
• When you are away, make sure your cat is properly cared for by a responsible person. When someone else is looking after your cat he or she also has a legal responsibility to ensure their welfare and you should ensure that the person understands their needs and any special requirements that they may have.
• Never leave your cat unsupervised with another animal or person who may harm or frighten them.
• Ensure that cats in your care are handled properly and are not stressed or endangered by other adults, children or animals.
• Be consistent, kind and gentle in the way you, your family and friends, react to your cat.
• If you are concerned about your cat’s behaviour seek advice from your vet or suitably qualified cat behaviour expert.
5. How to keep your cat healthy and protect them form pain, suffering, injury and disease.
What you should do:
• Check your cat for signs of injury or illness regularly and make sure that someone else does this if you are away. You should examine your cat closely, including their coat, which should also be checked for parasites such as fleas.
• If you notice changes in your cat’s behaviour, you should contact your vet and follow the advice you are given.
• If you suspect that your cat is in pain, ill or injured contact a vet promptly and follow veterinary advice regarding their treatment.
• Try to minimise fear and stress in your cat’s daily life. By doing so you will decrease its risk of certain illnesses.
• You should take the advice of your vet on how often your cat needs a health check and about the things that you can do to protect your cat’s health including routine preventive health care, such as vaccination, neutering and treatments to control parasites (e.g. fleas and worms), as well as how to deal with any current health problems your cat may have. You should follow the advice you are given.
• Make sure that you groom your cat without causing distress if they need help with the care of their coat. If you are uncertain, ask your vet about grooming your cat and how often you should do this.
• Only use medicines and drugs that have been prescribed for your individual cat.
• Human products and medicines intended for other animals can be dangerous to cats and sometimes fatal. If you are unsure seek veterinary advice.
• Make sure your cat can be identified such as by microchipping and ensure any microchip details kept up to date. This will ensure that it can be treated quickly if injured when away from home, or returned to you if lost. Make sure any collars fit properly with a quick release mechanism and are not harmful. If using a microchip as a form of identification.
D) SOURCES OF FURTHER INFORMATION.
• Your vet. You can contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to find details of vets in your area. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2AF: www.rcvs.org.uk – the website has a “find a vet” facility. https://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/find-a-vet/
Websites such as:
• Defra hosted on www.gov.uk – has information on the Animal Welfare Act 2006, Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) and copies of the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs.
• Association of Dogs and Cats Homes: www.adch.org.uk
• Animal Behaviour & Training Council: www.abtcouncil.org.uk
• Battersea Dogs & Cats Home: www.battersea.org.uk
• Blue Cross: www.bluecross.org.uk
• British Veterinary Association: www.bva.co.uk
• British Small Animals Veterinary Association: www.bsava.com
• Cats Protection: www.cats.org.uk
• Dogs Trust: www.dogstrust.org.uk
• International Cat Care: www.icats.org
• PDSA: www.pdsa.org.uk
• Pet Industry Federation: www.petfederation.co.uk
• Pet Health Council: www.pethealthcouncil.co.uk
• Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: www.rspca.org.uk
• The Cat Group: www.thecatgroup.org.uk
• The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy: www.gccfcats.org
• RCVS’ “Find a vet” service at www.findavet.rcvs.org.uk for health, nutrition or behavioural advice
• The Animal Behaviour & Training Council : www.abtcouncil.org.uk
• The Kennel Club: www.thekennelclub.org.uk