The Pet Care Trust – the pet education charity that promotes responsible pet ownership – is hosting the most far-reaching pet summit this decade. Being held at the Bristol Marriott Hotel on 18-19 June 2009, the Pet Care Forum will tackle highly controversial issues facing the pet sector.
Pet Care Trust Chief Executive, Janet Nunn, gives a taster of the tricky topics on the agenda: ‘Britain has long had a reputation of being a nation of pet lovers, indeed, the RSPCA’s vast income outstrips that of the NSPCC. With half the population of Britain keeping pets, we’ve long assumed that most of the non-pet keeping half would wish to keep a pet themselves if their lifestyle or budget allowed.
‘But is this right? Or was the BBC’s October 2008 documentary on pedigree dog breeding, and their subsequent withdrawal from Crufts, just the tip of an iceberg of public concern about dog breeding? And does this concern spread to other branches of pet keeping – or even to pet ownership as a whole?
‘Are the changes we’re seeing since the introduction of new animal welfare laws in Britain in 2006 really just further improvements in the nature of pet keeping here? Or will pet ownership become marginalised, seen at best as fit only for the moneyed few and at worst considered a selfish indulgence, an exploitation of other vertebrate beings for our own entertainment?’
If you want to explore this and the following tough questions, sign up to the Pet Care Forum 2009.
1. Why does RSPCA policy urge that animals should only be acquired by the prospective owner from the place where they were born or one of their rescue centres, without requiring credentials of the breeder, the animal or their own staff?
2. Why does Monty Pythonesque prejudice persist against pet retailers when they are performing a vital public service that shaves 0.125% off the National Health Service annual bill for every 1% increase in pet ownership, and improves the nation’s mental and physical well-being?*
3. What does the Kennel Club need to do to win back the respect and trust of all parts of the dog loving community? Can it be achieved within a meaningful timescale; what support does it need to get there?
4. Why are vets idolised in one TV series after another, when for every anecdote of a vet working tirelessly for minimal fees, there are two of vets charging over the odds, conducting costly and sometimes unnecessary work on animals regardless of whether it improves the animal’s quality of life, having first asked the owner, “Are you insured?”.
5. Is pet insurance starting to price veterinary services out of the reach of low income family households, making pet ownership an elite pastime and lifestyle?
6. Will the new animal care codes and secondary law on animal health and welfare add to the financial burden of pet keepers, marginalising the interest and lifestyle even further?
7. Why is it that dog lovers in the south-east of England and along the M8 corridor of Scotland have started to eschew the services of licensed boarding kennels in favour of home boarding services – even when these are franchised so the owners don’t know precisely where their dog is being housed, nor (since most local authorities do not license and inspect home boarders) in what conditions?
8. Why have national animal charities continued to grow despite a decrease in recent years in the number of British animals needing rehoming? Why don’t they publish data on re-homing and the numbers of animals brought in from abroad to maintain throughput and meet customer demand?
9. Do our public sector animal welfare law enforcers have the will and the means to do a proper job regulating the pet specialists (dog breeders, pet retailers and kennels and catteries) or would it be better done by specialist inspectors working to a nationally accredited standard?
10. Do our policy and lawmakers know enough about the nature and extent of pet keeping and the support industry in Britain today to make good legislation? Or, given the international scope of people’s lives and markets, should we stop trying to do this at UK level and leave it to EU and international bodies?
11. Is the UK vet medicines market operating in favour of delivering safe products at best price, or is it bound up I bureaucracy, adding cost without value, with pet owners picking up the tab?
12. Is central and local government too careless with the green spaces, too easily allowing the concreting over of spaces where people can go to exercise themselves and their pets?
Pets and Our Future is the theme of the annual showcase conference for pet care businesses and stakeholder organisations in the UK this June. Visit www.petcare.org.uk/events for further details.
The Forum will take place at the Bristol Marriott Hotel City Centre from 18-19 June 2009 and will include a keynote speech by the new Shadow Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Richard Benyon MP, promoted to the Shadow Ministerial team following the Conservative re-shuffle this year.