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22 November 2012
How pets bring support and joy to the lives of children was celebrated at the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH)’s Pet Event on 20 November, at the House of Commons.
But guests were also reminded that not all pets were looked after properly, and the importance of satisfying their 5 welfare needs.
Hosted by Neil Parish MP, chairman of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW), the event provided an opportunity for charities and individuals to tell their own stories about how animals help children and young people with their physical, educational or psychological needs – and bring so much joy. Guests had an opportunity to meet some animals and their handlers and trainers in order to gain an insight into their work.
Mr Parish explained: “As the proud owner of a Labrador called Wilberforce I know that our pets really are members of the family. As such, it’s important that we look after their health just as much as we do our own. That means not only caring for them when they’re sick, but helping prevent this from happening in the first place.
“It is an owner’s responsibility to look after all the welfare needs of our pets, and APGAW, along with public and professional support, believes that to include specific reference to the welfare needs of animals in the new primary curriculum would ensure that far more children leave school with a basic understanding of how to care for and respect animals. Education is the key to responsible pet ownership and will help those pets who sadly are not as happy or healthy as they could be."
NOAH chief executive Phil Sketchley welcomed the charities who were guests at the event, many of whom had brought along special dogs that helped many children.
“We have dogs that alert children to medical conditions, dogs that help children with special educational needs, or with conditions such as autism. We have dogs that help children to read – and some can even read themselves!
“While we just have dogs here, it is not only dogs that can have a special place in children’s hearts. There are Pets as Therapy cats – and we must not forget the marvellous Riding for the Disabled horses that bring so much joy – and nurture so much talent - all but one of Team GB’s hugely successful paradressage team at the 2012 Paralympics began riding with RDA!
“But we are not just looking at what these marvellous animals can do for us, it’s also what we can do for them. All these animals deserve our very best care and to be kept in the best possible health. We are also pleased to welcome those charities and organisations spreading the word about how to look after our animals responsibly, that join together through the Animal Welfare Education Alliance with its important Pet Education Resources website.
“We support the challenge of ensuring that the 5 welfare needs of every companion animal are met – and particularly close to NOAH’s heart is the need to be protected from pain, suffering and disease.”
Mr Sketchley said: “NOAH has been looking at new ways of raising awareness of pet owners of these welfare needs for pets. So, watch out for NOAH’s new ‘I Heart my Pet’ campaign, launched today, which, it is hoped, will get owners thinking about the health of their pets as well as having fun with them. With the campaign’s flagship seasonal tips, advice and activity calendar and emphasis on social media, NOAH will be aiming to make sure owners have expert advice and information they need to help keep their pets healthy all year round.
“The medicines and vaccines researched, developed and marketed by members of NOAH provide safe and effective care for all pets to enable them to enjoy life to the full and carry out their work in society and as family pets as well,” he added.