Pet caregiver’s responsibility to deliver on 5 welfare needs

Ben the Vet on TikTok has nicely reminded me about the five basic animal welfare needs as demanded by the UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006. This is a really nice piece of legislation which I think should be admired throughout the world. Not only is it good animal law, it is so good that it provides a basic framework for pet caregiving. This is a criminal law by the way. It’s a law written to basically punish people who abuse their companion animals and other animals.

It sets out five guiding principles or needs that the companion animal caregiver has to discharge in order to be within the law. Clearly, it’s a matter of degree by which I mean how far does a person deviate from the standard before they can be deemed to have committed a crime but it does focus the mind nicely. It is written in a way which allows discretion in interpretation. The interpretation of the standard is somewhat elastic.

Ben’s video

Ben covers the five needs in his TikTok video in his usual style. A very good video. This article adds some words to flesh out his short presentation. Please remember that this video is not hosted by my server. I don’t control its existence. If it stops working it is not my fault but I would apologise ??. Did you know you legally have 5 welfare needs to meet for your pet? #learnontiktok #loveyourpet #veterinary #cat #dog #snake #guineapig #benthevet ♬ I’M FEELING LUCKY – Ellen Once Again

The 5 welfare needs

What I will do is rewrite the relevant section of the law which is set out at the base of the article in nonlegal terms. But first here is a simple infographic:

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important
5 needs to be met by a cat caregiver

5 needs to be met by a cat caregiver in an infographic by MikeB.

Essentially, a cat or dog owner or any other companion animal owner needs to make sure that they provide their companion animal with a suitable environment in which to live, a suitable diet and a lifestyle in which they can express their normal behaviours (think Jackson Galaxy’s ‘catification’ and the ‘raw cat mojo’).

They also need to take into account whether the animal is social or nonsocial and provide housing and companionship (if needed) to meets those demands. And finally – and this is a common-sense point – to ensure that they are protected from injury, disease, pain and suffering. This is about security and general protection from the possibilities of getting a disease or being injured.

Of course, one follows the other. For example, if a cat owner provides a good diet and good housing with a good overriding standard of care, the animal will be protected from pain and suffering.

And if a cat owner allows their cat to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, they are less likely to become stressed which protects them against suffering from stress induced illnesses such as cystitis.

Enforcement and degree of deviation from standards

The difficulty with all criminal legislation is enforcement. Clearly, there are sadly many people who do not meet the requirements as set out but nobody knows about it because they keep their cats indoors all the time in what might be very bad conditions. If the RSPCA knew about the problem they would probably prosecute. And law enforcement is not always interested ?. They have to prioritise.

And then there’s the question of how bad must things get before they are deemed to be a violation of this law? For example, a person might keep a cat indoors full-time and they might live in a small, environmentally unenriched apartment. They might go to work all day. That to me, would be a borderline abuse and it would be a possible violation of this Act because the cat would not have the opportunity to express their natural behaviours and the environment would arguably be unsuitable if left alone in it for 10-12 hour stretches. It would certainly be a violation if the animal was a dog.

It’s obviously a sliding scale because the scenario I have described is borderline. The classic cat hoarder is the person who is in violation of this animal welfare legislation. The cat hoarder’s home is normally in a very dire state and uninhabitable essentially. They would breach the environmental aspect of the legislation. A cat hoarder’s cats are neglected and therefore they would suffer pain and distress and often disease as a result.

Often many cats are crammed together which would be in violation of the need to house them properly. Domestic cats are sociable nowadays but not so sociable that you can cram them together in large numbers in a small space. And a cat hoarder would be in violation of failing to provide a suitable environment. And finally, often their diet is defective as well.

Cat hoarders would fail on all five standards. I’m mentioning this just to get a feel for the legislation and how it might work.

Guideline for good caregivers

But to return to the beginning, the good cat caregiver can also turn to this Act to check whether they are doing the right thing and meeting the standards required of them. It prompts self-examination.

The relevant section of the Act

This is the relevant section of the Act verbatim. If you are interested in reading the Act, please click on this link.

Duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare

(1) A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

(2) For the purposes of this Act, an animal’s needs shall be taken to include –

(a)its need for a suitable environment,
(b)its need for a suitable diet,
(c)its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
(d)any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and
(e)its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Below are some articles on animal laws.

Animal Rising protests are good

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WARNING: Video of man in China hanging a kitten from a string held in his hand

The tweet states: "The atrocities just continue. May 10, a netizen photographed a man killing a kitten near Building 16, ...
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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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