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Window of opportunity for better welfare for equines in Wales say horse welfare charity

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World Horse Welfare launched its latest campaign today in Wales and is encouraging people in the country to contact their recently elected Members of the Senedd (MSs) and call on them to pledge to protect and improve equine welfare during the next five years. 

Although significant advances in protecting equine welfare have already been made in Wales, the charity’s #ActNow4Horses campaign is encouraging the new Senedd, elected in May this year, to build on these successes and position Wales as a leader in equine welfare.

World Horse Welfare is encouraging MSs to commit to actively supporting a number of proposed laws and animal lovers across Wales are encouraged to contact their local MSs by email or letter and request that they pledge to #ActNow4Horses.   

Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare said: “A key focus for this campaign is ensuring all equines are identified and traceable, because our other proposals to improve equine welfare all depend on accurately identifying equines at all stages of their lives.  
 
“The introduction of microchipping for all equines was a fantastic step forward,” he said “but the legislation did not go far enough. We believe a frictionless and digitised equine ID system is the only answer and is a fundamental requirement for all other equine welfare legislation to work and be enforceable, so we urge people to ask their MSs for this.”  

The charity argues that the current paper passport system is too open to fraud, with evidence showing that horses are exported unnecessarily long distances on fake passports to slaughter and in poor welfare conditions. The legislation that is currently going through the UK Parliament – and which is intended to also apply to Wales – to ban live exports to slaughter is welcome, but without closing the loopholes in the Equine ID system it is simply not enforceable. This needs to be addressed urgently. 

A horse being microchipped

The other proposals include licensing of sanctuaries, rescue and rehoming centres to ensure that equines taken in are given the protection they deserve, building on the Welsh voluntary code of practice for animal welfare establishments; improved welfare during transport; the introduction of a centralised database of all premises where equines are kept, including recording the type of activity (such as breeder or dealer) taking place; improved welfare on the commons and mountains and updating the out-dated system of licensing of riding establishments.  

Collectively, the changes the charity is calling for have the potential to significantly improve the welfare of equines in Wales, if they are acted upon. 
 
World Horse Welfare highlighted some of the key issues for the welfare of horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids to prospective candidates ahead of the Welsh Parliamentary elections on 6 May this year. Now the charity say they need the public’s support to ensure MSs will act on these issues.   
 
Since World Horse Welfare was formed in 1927, by working with horse owners, communities, organisations and governments it has influenced more than 50 pieces of legislation, including the Control of Horses Act in England, and protecting horses going to slaughter.   

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You can read the charity’s Manifesto HERE. You can also find out if your local and regional MSs have already pledged HERE  

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Pets

Are cats man’s new best friend? Surge in demand throughout lockdown

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Everyone’s heard that dogs are man’s best friend, but what about cats? 

Research from pet insurance comparison experts Quotezone.co.uk, shows that over the last three years, across the pandemic, demand for pets amongst single people was on the rise, particularly cats. 

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Couples with pets have actually been in decline year-on-year, dropping from 70.5% in 2019 to 67% in 2022 for dogs, and from 65% down to 60.6% for couples with cats.

Demand for pets from single people has spiked though, with dogs up from 29% to 33% and the popularity of cats jumping by almost 5%, from 35% in 2019 to 39.4% in 2022.

The cat owners surveyed take very particular care of their pets, with 85% of the cats microchipped – even though it’s not a legal requirement yet. A majority of cat owners in the UK have also gotten their feline friends vaccinated (84%) and neutered (85%), which can help for medical reasons and can even help cat owners save money on pet insurance. 

Top 3 ways to save on cat insurance

  1. Review pets’ lifestyles, indoor versus outdoor – indoor cats are at less risk of theft and injury.
  2. If you have more than one cat, it’s normally cheaper to have a multi-pet policy.
  3. Often fully vaccinated, microchipped/tagged and neutered cats have cheaper premiums.

Greg Wilson, Founder of pet insurance comparison site, Quotezone.co.uk, comments: “It’s great to see a rise in demand for our feline friends, these clever animals are full of affection and personality, we’d just recommend that people do their homework before adopting or purchasing any pet, considering if the breed is a good fit for them and their household and working out estimated costs for care and food beforehand. 

“Bear in mind any upcoming changes in lifestyle such as returning to the office or a more hybrid work/life balance, which can all affect our furry friends.

“Vet bills have the potential to be quite sizable if the animal suffers an accident or is diagnosed with an illness, so shop around and get a good deal on pet insurance, it really is the best way to protect them, safeguard finances and it doesn’t have to be expensive.”

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Dogs Trust appeals for dog foster carers in Wales to support survivors of domestic abuse

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Dogs Trust is launching its specialist dog fostering service in Wales and urgently needs foster carers to temporarily care for the dogs of survivors of domestic abuse, enabling their owners to flee to safety.

Dogs Trust launched its Freedom Project in 2004, offering a lifeline for dog owners who are escaping from domestic abuse.

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The Freedom Project provides foster homes for dogs and enables survivors to access safe accommodation without the fear of what may happen to their dog if they cannot take them with them.

Joanne Jackson, Freedom Project Regional Manager for Wales, said: “It has become clear that a dedicated pet fostering service is needed in Wales to support people and their pets fleeing domestic abuse. By establishing a specialist pet fostering service in this area, we can help dog owners in Wales find refuge away from their abusive perpetrator, without worrying what will happen to their beloved pet.

“Sadly, there is a strong link between domestic abuse and abuse to pets, with research showing that pets will often be used by a perpetrator as a tool to threaten, coerce and control their partners.

“Each week we will receive a call from someone who is escaping domestic abuse, but they feel they are unable to leave their home until they know their pet will be safe too.

“As many refuges are unable to accept pets, our confidential dog fostering service provides survivors with a lifeline, enabling them to flee to safety knowing that their dog will also be safe and loved until they can be reunited with them.

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“We couldn’t run this life-saving service without our incredible network of volunteer foster carers, who open up their homes and hearts to care for these dogs, knowing that they are not only helping a dog in need, but also directly supporting a family to escape abuse and be able to move on with their lives.

“Fostering comes with many benefits, from encouraging you to keep active and meet other people in your community, through to providing you with company and a waggy tail to wake up to in the morning. On top of this, all the dog’s expenses are covered, and you have the added bonus of knowing you are supporting both a dog and their family get to safety.”

The team are looking for volunteers who are at home during the day, potentially people who are retired or work from home. They must have some experience of caring for dogs and be able to commit to fostering a dog for at least six months, although holiday cover can be provided. All pet food and the cost of veterinary treatment are covered by Dogs Trust.

Sharon** is a volunteer foster carer for the Freedom Project. She said: “The most rewarding part of being a foster carer is that you are helping the dog, but also their human. It is really rewarding when your foster dog is on its way home; envisioning the excitement when they meet up again. 

“I get excited for them; I know they are going to be beside themselves with joy! We talk about it when they have gone- you wonder how they are getting on back with their family, all the while knowing you have given them a loving home for a short time”

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Involvement in fostering through the project is always kept completely confidential to protect both the dogs and the foster carers. Dogs are not fostered within the area that the owner is from and the foster carer will not know who the owner is or where they live.

To find out more about the Freedom Project and to apply to become a foster carer please visit www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk, call 0300 373 0677 or e-mail freedomproject@dogstrust.org.uk

**Names have been changed to protect their anonymity

(Lead image: Dogs Trust)

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Blind rescue dog finds his new human ‘guide’

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An elderly blind dog who came into rescue in Wales at the age of 11 has got a bright future ahead of him after his “cheeky personality” won over his foster carer who decided to permanently adopt him.

Golden oldie Tiny Tim, described as “young at heart,” was in a very poor condition when he arrived at the RSPCA’s Llys Nini Animal Centre in March after his elderly owner was no longer able to care for him.

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As well as sight loss, the little Westie was suffering from a range of health issues including an ear infection, sore skin and a severely matted coat, which had to be shaved in places to make him more comfortable. His teeth, however, were in remarkably good shape for a dog of his age.

Now, three months later, Tiny Tim is thriving with his fosterer Sally Humphries, who has become so attached to the cheeky dog – whose antics include stealing food from the fridge when she isn’t looking – that she’s decided to adopt him permanently.

He is even being taught clicker training by Sally – a type of reward based training where a clicker is used to tell a dog that they have done the right thing – and responds to his name and to instructions such as, ‘sit’, ‘lie,’ ‘step up’ and ‘step down’.

“When I first got Tim home I set up a camera to monitor how he was coping and we started by keeping him on a lead and doing laps around different rooms to help familiarise him with the space,” said Sally, who is also the kennel team leader at Llys Nini Animal Centre. “I put different textures in certain places, for example, a rug in front of the sofa and a towel under his water bowl to get him used to his surroundings.

“Despite his advancing years and the fact that we were advised he would probably need palliative care, he’s got a real zest for life. He’s definitely young at heart and I’ve had to be quite fit to keep up with him! When we go out and about I’m his eyes, so that means doing things like making sure other dogs do not approach him too quickly. He loves being taken for a walk and sniffing out new smells and he’ll climb up on things if you’re not looking, so his blindness isn’t holding him back.

Sally added: “Although I didn’t initially plan to adopt Tim, he’s completely won me and my dad over with his cheeky personality. He’s settled in so well and really enjoys the company of my other rescue dog, Lady.

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“As time went on, I felt it would be unfair to expect him to start all over again with someone new and strange surroundings, particularly at his age, and more so because he’s blind.

“He’s wonderful company and a great example of how an older dog with a disability has so much to give and get out of life.”

Blind dogs are no different to sighted dogs in terms of their ability and desire to learn. Training, using positive, reward based methods is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between a dog and their owner and help the pet learn important life skills and behaviours.

As well as supporting him with his sight loss, Tiny Tim’s skin will also need to be closely monitored by Sally for the rest of his life and his ears bathed daily.

Blind Westie, Tiny Tim has settled into his new forever home (Video RSPCA)

(Lead image: RSPCA)

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