Deciding what your pet eats may be entirely up to you. However, restricting your dog’s diet to suit your personal dietary preference could land you in hot water if you are found to have fallen foul of the Animal Welfare Act of 2006.
The Act stipulates that all dog owners are required to feed their pets a ‘suitable diet’. Although this may seem too vague a description, you could find yourself in trouble if you are found to be feeding them foods that do not meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs.
According to the animal charity, Blue Cross, the act requires that all British pet owners have a legal duty to provide for their pet’s welfare needs. Section nine of the act, stipulates that all domestic animals have the legal right to:
live in a suitable environment; eat a suitable diet; exhibit normal behaviour patterns; be housed with, or apart from, other animals; be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Speaking about the issue recently, Daniella Dos Santos, the president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said:
In the UK, under the Animal Welfare Act the owner has the obligation to feed the animal an appropriate diet. If your personal belief system means you don’t want to eat any animal protein, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of your pet.
Dos Santos said at the time that it was possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but that should be done under the guidance of an expert to ensure the animal is not lacking any necessary nutrients.
It is theoretically possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it’s much easier to get it wrong than to get it right. You would have to do it under the supervision of a veterinary-trained nutritionist.
Pet owners who break the law could be taken to court and face a prison sentence of up to 51 weeks and a fine of up to £20,000. They may also have their pet taken away from them and or be banned from having pets in the future.