5 steps to responsible pet ownership

Pets are treasured members of our families who bring joy, companionship and endless entertainment to our lives. However, with the privilege of pet ownership comes the responsibility of ensuring their wellbeing. One way to fulfil this responsibility is to prioritise the five animal freedoms.

Originally proposed by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979, the five animal freedoms have been embraced by various animal welfare organisations worldwide, including the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) in South Africa. These freedoms outline the essential physical and psychological needs that animals require to live a happy and healthy life.

According to the NSPCA, which serves as the umbrella organisation for all SPCAs in South Africa, animal welfare is governed by the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962. This act mandates that causing unnecessary suffering to any animal, including pets, is a criminal offence.

The NSPCA offers guidance and resources on these topics. However, despite these efforts, the NSPCA still receives around 15,000 complaints of animal cruelty each year. This underscores the critical need to promote animal welfare and ensure that all pets and other animals receive the care and respect they deserve.


The five animal freedoms

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst

We must ensure that our pets have access to fresh water and are fed an appropriate diet tailored to their species, age and activity level.


  1. Freedom from discomfort

Our pets should have access to a comfortable and safe living environment, including a clean and dry living space, proper ventilation and a cosy and comfortable resting area. We should also provide protection from extreme weather conditions.


  1. Freedom from pain, injury and disease

Pets should not be subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering. We must prioritise our pets’ health by ensuring they receive proper veterinary care, including preventative measures like vaccinations and regular check-ups.


  1. Freedom to express normal behaviour

Pets have natural instincts and behaviours that they need to express. We should ensure that our pets have adequate space and resources to engage in natural behaviours like exploring, playing and socialising.


  1. Freedom from fear and distress

Pets should not live in a state of fear or distress. We can help reduce our pets’ stress levels by providing a secure and peaceful living environment, avoiding loud noises or sudden movements that could startle them and spending quality time with them.


Promote animal welfare

Overall, the five animal freedoms are an important concept for promoting animal welfare. By prioritising our pets’ wellbeing to provide them with the care and attention they deserve and by working together to promote these freedoms, we can help create a better world for both pets and people.


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