Responsible pet ownership

Our Spring 2015 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found that UK companion animal and exotic animal vets regarded irresponsible pet ownership as one of the most pressing animal welfare issues in 2015.

All pet owners have a legal responsibility to help protect the welfare of animals. See our policy position on animal welfare.

Our position and activity on responsible pet ownership is laid out in the following areas: 

Preventative healthcare for pets

Neutering pets

We support the practice of neutering cats and dogs (castration of tom cats/dogs and spaying of queens/bitches) to:

  • prevent the birth of unwanted kittens and puppies
  • reduce the spread of genetic defects
  • decrease the problems associated with rehoming and strays

View our policy position on neutering

Vaccinating pets

Prevention is better than cure, so we want to encourage pet owners to speak to their vet about protecting their pet from what are often fatal infectious diseases.

We have created guidance for pet owners on getting your pet vaccinated (284 KB PDF)

Veterinary medicines

We want to make pet owners aware of the need to use veterinary medicines responsibly, particularly antibiotics. 

We have created the following advice leaflets for pet owners:

View our policy position on veterinary medicines

View our policy position on antimicrobials

Pet insurance

Pet insurance can provide peace of mind and cover for veterinary fees when pets become injured or ill. Although we support the idea of pet insurance, we cannot recommend any particular scheme as all policies are different.

We have created an advice leaflet for pet owners on the benefits of pet insurance (107 KB PDF)

Fireworks and loud noise

We have concerns about the impact on animal welfare caused by loud fireworks and we consider that fireworks legislation should be revised to reduce the noise limit of fireworks for public use, for the sake of animal welfare. See our policy statement on fireworks and animal welfare (38 KB PDF)

We encourage pet owners to use sound based treatment programmes which help get animals used to loud noises such as fireworks. Sound Therapy for pets is a free programme available to download from the Dogs Trust.

Dogs – exercise and responsible ownership

It is important that dogs have the opportunity to exercise to help them stay healthy, and to interact with other dogs and with people to help them socialise and practice their normal behaviours. See our policy position on dogs in public amenity spaces: BVA/BSAVA Policy position on dogs in public amenity spaces (PDF 174 KB)

Taking pets abroad

There are strict pet travel rules that pet owners must follow before taking their pets abroad. Further guidance for pet owners can be found in the Animal Welfare Foundation leaflet on taking your pet abroad

View our pet travel information for vets.

Traditional companion animals - dogs, cats and small furries

Dog health and welfare

Please see our position and activity on dog health and welfare which incorporates:

We would encourage anyone who is thinking of buying a puppy to use the AWF and RSPCA Puppy Contract. You can also view the Defra guidance on buying a dog or cat.

Rabbit health and welfare

Please see our position and activity on rabbit health and welfare.

We also lend our support to the RSPCA Rabbit welfare vision statement which sets out 10 aspirations to help improve rabbit welfare.  

Pet owner guidance on caring for rabbits is available from Animal Welfare Foundation.

Non-traditional companion animals - exotics and primates

Exotic pets

Our 2015 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey revealed that 48% of exotics vets feel that owner ignorance of animal needs is a top issue. The number of exotic animals being kept as pets is increasing and we are concerned that the welfare needs of these animals are not being met. We are working with our specialist divisions to highlight and address these concerns.

View our policy position on exotic pets

Primates as pets

We have significant concerns about the welfare needs of primates that are kept privately as pets. Primates must be kept in social groups, yet the RSPCA found that animals were kept in isolation in 60% of cases investigated.

In response to an Efra select committee enquiry, we called for a ban on keeping pet primates.  

We have also worked with a number of animal welfare groups to campaign against keeping primates as pets.

We urge you to sign the petition to end the keeping and trade of primates as pets and share it with your friends and colleagues, using  #ProtectPrimates on social media.

Our activity on responsible pet ownership



Related legislation on responsible pet ownership