Thursday, 17 January 2013

Animal Welfare in Severe Weather conditions

The Met Office warns that parts of Britain are likely to shiver with temperatures remaining below zero today, while blizzards and snow topping 25cm (nearly 10in) over higher ground are expected to cause severe disruption on Friday 18 January.
During severe weather, although priority will be given to human needs, the welfare of animals is also important. DEFRA has provided general advice on keeping a variety of animals safe:
Advice to Farmers
During periods of bad weather farmers will already be working to ensure livestock is protected from the severe weather and that food and water is available. Farmers will be best placed to identify and source feed and water for their animals, for example by co-operating with neighbours if supplies run short or access is difficult.
It is important to ensure that where animals are kept outside drinking water troughs etc. are kept free of ice and that if pipes and other water supply fittings are blocked water is taken to the animals regularly.
Advice to pet and horse owners
Where pets (such as rabbits and guinea pigs) are normally kept outside in hutches during mild winters, owners should consider moving them into garages/sheds to provide additional thermal insulation. Where cages cannot be moved additional protection or insulation should be provided wherever possible. It is also important to ensure a supply of drinking water. Ice should be cleared from drinking water containers and the spouts should be defrosted regularly.
As with farmed livestock, horses and ponies usually kept outside during the winter should have access to shelter at all times and a regular provision of feed and water ensured. Where such provision is inadequate, owners should consider moving the animals and/or permanently stabling in the interim period. Water supplies for all horses and ponies should be checked regularly and alternatives sources supplied if mains failure occurs.
Live animal transport
Transporters are required by law not to transport animals in a way that is likely to cause injury or undue suffering. So in cold conditions transporters must check their intended route is safe and clear before any journey commences. If journeys do commence then drivers should have contingency plans to care for the animals in case of any problems encountered.

Sources of help and advice

  • RSPCA can be contacted by calling – Telephone 0300 1234 999.
  • NFU Members – Telephone 0870 845 8458

    Photograph: Graham Lawrence/Demotix/Corbis

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