Owners of obese dogs and fat cats could face jail under controversial new rulesBy David Derbyshire
The Daily Mail
Nov. 11, 2008
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Owners of fat cats and obese dogs could be fined or jailed under controversial Government rules.
New beefed-up codes of practice for pet owners published today state that overfeeding pets is a 'serious welfare concern' that can lead to unnecessary suffering.
People who refuse to put seriously fat pets on a diet could be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act - and face a fine of up to £20,000 or even 12 months' jail.
Environment Minster Hilary Benn said the toughened codes of practice were designed to remind pet owners of their responsibilities under the law and would protect animals from cruelty.
But Tories branded the guidance 'absurd' and warned that much of the advice was patronising.
The draft document, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, gives detailed advice to dog, cat and horse owners about looking after animals - and tells them how to avoid being prosecuted for cruelty.
It also tells owners to provide 'entertainment' and 'mental stimulation' for pets, make sure upstairs windows are 'cat-proofed' to stop animals falling out and to avoid taking dogs for a walk in the hottest part of the day.
In addition, it points out the importance of giving animals a suitable place to live and ' somewhere to go to the toilet'.
The codes follow last year's Animal Welfare Act which introduced a legal duty on owners to ensure that pets are properly looked after.
The documents will be published as leaflets after an eight-week consultation period. Although breaking the code is not an offence, courts will use it to judge whether owners have been cruel.
The document on cat welfare begins with a warning: 'It is your responsibility to read the complete Code of Practice to fully understand your cat's welfare needs and what the law requires you to do.'
It warns that if they are taken to court, failure to follow the code could be used against them.
The code tells owners to ensure their cats are looked after when they go away and to brush them regularly. Long-haired cats should be groomed 'at least once a day'.
The code also tells owners to have a cat litter tray available inside, even if their cat has 24-hour access to a garden. Dog owners are warned not to feed their pets chocolate or raisins for health reasons and to avoid giving them medicines designed for people.
Mr Benn said the new codes of practice ensure that 'no one will be able to claim ignorance as an excuse for mistreating any animal'.
But the Tories' spokesman for animal welfare, Bill Wiggin, said: 'These new codes are absurd. Defra has missed the opportunity to produce a set of sensible proposals that would protect animals from abuse and mistreatment.
'Here we have this ridiculous guide which tells people not to walk their dog in the heat of the day or feed it at the table. Defra are taking people for fools.'