Pet owners’ guide
Mon, 27 Jul 2009
Owning a pet can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience but it needs time and financial planning.
How to be a responsible pet owner
Owning a pet can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience but it needs time and financial planning. It’s vital you know about all your responsibilities as a pet owner and how best to care for your pet.
Keep your pet safe
Sainsbury’s Finance released figures in May 2009 for the past five years showing that 12% of cat owners and 4% of dog owners reported their dogs as missing at some point. Pets Bureau reports that a third of dogs reported as missing are stolen, indicating that pet-knapping is a very real crime. There are a number of reasons why pets are stolen, from the re-sale value of the animal to the potential earnings made from breeding. According to Pets Bureau, the breeds of dogs which are most likely to be stolen include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Jack Russells, German Shepherd Dogs, Labradors, Rottweilers and Border Collies.
To reduce the risk of your pet going missing or being stolen, make sure your pet wears a collar and ID tag, and have them microchipped.
If you own a dog, by law you must attach an ID tag to your dog’s collar with your name and address inscribed to identify yourself as the owner. You may be fined up to £5,000 under the (The Control of Dogs Order 1992) if you do not comply. Cat owners don’t face the same enforcement but they’re a sensible idea to make sure your cat can be identified if it goes missing.
Your vet can microchip your pet for you. It’s a relatively painless procedure whereby a tiny microchip is inserted in the scruff of the neck. You can register your pet’s microchip with agencies such as Pets Bureau or Petlog to match their database. When scanned by a vet, animal warden or rescue centre, a serial number unique to your pet is displayed that matches back to your details. These agencies operate 24/7 to help get your pet back to you.
You can also record your pet’s DNA profile as the ultimate identification measure.
You can insure your pets against loss or theft. You should look for an insurer that not only offers compensation if your dog or cat is lost or stolen and not returned, but that also offers money towards the advertising costs for a lost dog or cat.
Pet insurance is also a must to cover you for vet bills as your main responsibility as a pet owner is your pet’s health.
Keep your pet healthy
It’s important to take out pet insurance as soon as you buy your pet. Data from Sainsbury’s Finance reveals that 12% of cats and dogs under the age of three suffer from some form of medical condition which may occur later in life or be linked to other conditions. Waiting to insure your pet might mean your insurer won’t cover you for any pre-existing conditions that your pet might have developed early in life.
Pedigree animals are more likely to develop complications and require more veterinary attention compared to crossbreeds, according to Sainsbury’s Finance. Lucy Hunter, Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance Manager, says: “The most frequent claim for a small pedigree dog is for cardiac disease, which can run into thousands of pounds, so a good quality pet insurance is essential.”
The cost of treating different breeds of pets also varies greatly. For example, figures from Sainsbury’s Finance reveal that the average treatment cost for a Rottweiler is in the region of £441, 32% above the average treatment cost for other pedigree dogs.
Find a vet and schedule regular check-ups
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has an online tool that helps you find a vet in your local area. You can also search for RCVS accredited practices and recognised specialists.
Specific care for your pet
The Pet Care Trust is a national pet care education charity that promotes education and training. The Trust has developed a range of Pet Care Advice leaflets that you can download and print out that covers everything from stick insects to hamsters!
The PDSA, the UK's leading veterinary charity, also has good advice on responsible pet ownership, including ‘petcasts’ on a range of topics which you can download and watch http://www.pdsa.org.uk/petcasts.html.
Care with children
If you have young children you should be mindful that dogs might not be 100% safe with everyone all the time. Children should be taught how to behave in the company of even the best trained dog. The Kennel Club’s Safe and Sound scheme has been set up to help educate people with families about owning dogs.
Care for your pet when you’re away
You may like to take your pet with you on holidays but it can prove quite a complicated process, and it might be more stressful for your pet to come with you on holiday than to stay at home. Read our Top Tips for Planning Your Holiday [link to top tips] for more information.
If you’re leaving your pet behind, try to leave them with people that they know well. If you’re going to leave your pet with a petsitter or at a kennel, do your research. You can find a recognised Petsitter from the National Association of Registered Petsitters (NARP) on 0845 2308544 or visit www.dogsit.com. For more information on finding a good boarding kennel contact the Animal Boarding Advice Bureau on 01606 891303.