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Barking mad: Dog owners whose pets are too thin or too fat face jail under new rules

Nicholas Cecil
Tuesday, October 4, 2008

Dog owners whose pets are too thin or too fat, are fed from the table or are walked when it is hot risk being jailed for up to six months under new rules.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today published proposed new codes of conduct for dog, cat and horse owners.

But he immediately came under attack. Conservative agriculture spokesman Jim Paice said: “Some of these elements are over the top. This is not the sort of stuff we expected to be in the code.”

The dog code of conduct says they should not be taken for a walk when the weather is too hot.

Cat lovers have their own rules to follow and are urged to make sure, apart from advice on hygiene and diet, that the pet has a “secure place to hide”.

The guidelines for horses are based on the same principles.



Breaching the three codes will not in itself be a crime. But it could prove to be the deciding factor in whether an individual is found guilty in court of a pet welfare offence – which carries a maximum jail sentence of six months or a fine of up to £20,000.

But Mr Benn defended the guidelines which he said he said are meant to remind pet owners of the law under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Launching the eight-week consultation, Mr Benn said: “The Animal Welfare Act has been the most important piece of animal legislation for nearly a century.

“Animals are now afforded greater protection than ever before. These new codes of practice will outline the responsibilities of owners under the Act and give practical advice on how to fulfil them. This means no one will be able to claim ignorance as an excuse.”

The guidelines cover the environment for animals, diet, the company they enjoy, ensuring they exhibit normal behaviour patterns, as well as health and welfare issues.