Many articles have been written about how to care for your pet but there is a universally accepted method of checking to see whether an animal is being properly cared for.
This is called the Five Freedoms.
The Five Freedoms was originally developed for farm animals by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979, but it has since become universally accepted as the basic conditions an animal is entitled to.
It applies to any animal, anywhere, and applies equally to pets and zoo animals as it does to farm animals. It’s a way of looking at any animal and making sure it is being properly looked after.
The Five Freedoms is simple to apply. At the SPCA we use it every day to assess animals as we drive or walk around Bermuda.
Sometimes if something is missing, it can be down to ignorance rather than neglect, so we always try to be fair. We have an assessment form based on the Five Freedoms which we can leave with pet owners, so they can see if they are looking after their animal correctly.
Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
Every animal needs unlimited access to fresh clean water, particularly in a hot climate.
How many times do you see dogs chained up without either a water bowl or one that is empty? It is probably the easiest thing of all to provide fresh clean water in a bowl or drinker that cannot be knocked over, yet so many owners fail to provide even this basic requirement.
Also, all animals need a suitable diet to ensure health and vigour. The food needs to be a combination of bulk to provide physical satisfaction, and nutrition to provide energy.
Freedom from Discomfort
This covers many aspects and includes shelter from the elements such as wind and rain, and somewhere comfortable to rest.
Again, how many times when driving around do you see dogs chained up in porches without shelter from the rain or sun?
Most people who go to work and leave their dog chained up in the yard seem to forget that the sun actually moves throughout the day. What is in shadow first thing in the morning is probably in direct sunlight at midday, and then back in shadow again when they get home.
Lying on hard surfaces like concrete all day is also bound to be uncomfortable and can cause problems in the long-term, particularly among larger breeds.
So, at the very least provide some sort of platform if your dog lives outside — even if it is only a wooden one to keep the dog off the hard wet porch.
Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease
This means that wherever possible, you must prevent pain, injury or disease. Make sure your pet is not confined in a dangerous environment and that it is kept clean to prevent the spread of disease.
If it is injured or sick you should obtain immediate veterinary treatment.
Preventative measures are always easier and cheaper than treating a major problem, so consider regular vaccinations, worming and bathing for ticks and other parasites.
Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
This is relative to the animal and the environment, as it is impossible to allow your dog to roam in a pack with other dogs or your pet cat to mark his or her territory on your sofa.
What it does mean in reality is that your dog or cat must have room to exercise, somewhere to toilet — away from where they sleep — and company.
Too many pets are shut up in small cages on their own without the ability to move around or socialize.
Even human inmates in solitary confinement in prison get at least an hour a day to socialize and exercise with fellow prisoners.
How many dogs do you know that are kept caged 24 hours a day and only get five minutes of interaction with their owner when some food is thrown in?
Birds get a much worse deal as often they are confined in tiny cages barely big enough to spread their wings.
In the wild even the smallest finch or mouse will have a territory the size of your house and porch, so why do we keep them confined in tiny cages and tanks barely big enough to move around in?
Zoo animals suffer even more. Many have hunting ranges or a territory in the wild encompassing many square miles, yet we keep them in tiny pens barely large enough to allow them to walk more than half a dozen paces.
Freedom from Fear and Distress
This is probably the principle that people have the most problem with, as it describes mental suffering rather than a physical problem.
Dogs that are tethered outside houses can be frightened of being attacked by other dogs, and cars driving close by.
Animals kept in cages in noisy or smoky environments can become distressed, as can timid animals that are unable to hide from view.
Rabbits, birds and hamsters are examples of prey animals that are always on the lookout for predators in the wild. They don’t feel safe if they cannot hide from view.
Once you understand the principles of the Five Freedoms it is easy to assess any animal you come across, to see if it is being correctly looked after.
Every animal — including man — should have the ability to live by the principles of the Five Freedoms, yet it is sad to see animals kept without even their basic needs fulfilled.
As you go about your daily life for the next month why not quickly assess every animal you come across against the Five Freedoms. I suspect you will be shocked.
Glyn Roberts is the inspector for the Bermuda Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Contact 236-7333 or see www.spca.bm
By Glyn Roberts BermudaSun