Blue Cross hosted a fringe meeting at Labour conference entitled ‘Throw away society, disposable pets: are we still a nation of animal lovers’.
Huw Irranca-Davies, shadow Minister for Environment, food and rural affairs spoke about the need for people to fully appreciate the total cost of keeping pets over their lifetime.
He explained that the cost of keeping a small dog can be £16,000 during its lifetime, £17,000 for a cat and £9,000 for a rabbit. If this information was made aware to people at the point of taking on a new pet they would be able to budget better for these costs.
He said: “We pride ourselves as a nation that takes care of our pets, but there is massive neglect”
He explained that whilst £4 billion is spent each year on pampering pets, at the other end of the spectrum the RSPCA makes 2,000 prosecutions each year and conducts 100,000 investigations.
The panellists also covered the issues of back street breeding, the online sales of pets and compulsory neutering.
Steve Goody from Blue Cross highlighted that: “ownership is a privilege not a right”.
He also mentioned the benefits animals bestow on mankind, especially ‘the most vulnerable’.
Mr Goody explained that there are approximately 20 million dogs and cats in the UK, and fundamentally ‘too many pets for too few good homes’.
Blue Cross is hugely concerned by the proliferation of online pet advertising and is an active member of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group which seeks to implement better regulation or a code of conduct in this area.
James Yeates from the RSPCA said that animals provided excellent ‘social capital’ and that the RSPCA national control centre deals with up to 1.3 million calls each year.
PC Steven Pennington works in the Dogs section for Merseyside Police and was also part of the panel discussion. He is on the frontline dealing with dangerous dogs and had had to cope with two tragic fatalities in Liverpool in the last year, both the result of illegal dogs.
He said: “The wrong types of people are buying the wrong type of dogs.”
Both fatalities occurred in the home, so he was clear about indoor dog safety as well as outdoor:
“You have got to keep a dog safely in the house as well as in open space”
Huw Irranca-Davies also spoke of the economic impact on pets due to the high cost of vet bills and pet food. “People are abandoning their pets because of the cost, not because they don’t like them and that is a tragedy”
Blue Crosswill also be hosting an event at Conservative conference.