Orchard Vet's Blog

Pets at the movies


Two of this year's biggest animated movies should give us food for thought as pet owners.

The Secret Life of Pets, which was released in July, relates the adventures had by Max and his animal friends when their owners are not around. But behind the fun is a serious story about how our pets react when they are left on their own.

The RSPCA in particular is hoping that the film will raise awareness of separation related behaviour in dogs, which can often be destructive - from whining at the door, to urinating, to more serious signs of stress such as vomiting and even self-harming. The inherent issue is that it is difficult to know if our pets are struggling precisely becuse the symptoms are only exhibited when owners are not around.

Separation related behaviour is preventable. Excercise and feed your dog before you go out; leave them something to play with so that they don't get bored; and don't punish your dog if they do go to the toilet in your absence as this can exacerbate anxiety.

Finding Dory, released in June, is the sequel to Finding Nemo, and concerns Dory's search for her family. Since she suffers from amnesia, this is a particularly difficult quest and she enlists Marlin and Nemo to help.

Dory is a surgeonfish (in fact a regal blue tang) and the RSPCA expects there to be an increase in (ultimately unwanted) aquarium fish sales as a result of the film. A significant plot point in the movie revolves around the contrast between life in the ocean and life in an aquarium. Indeed, the Born Free foundation has asserted that the central message of Finding Dory is that marine life does not belong in tanks. Of course, a similar principle could apply to rabbits in hutches and hamsters in cages.

While animal rights can be a complex moral debate, animal welfare focuses on the needs of the animals themselves and is enshrined in UK legislation (the Animal Welfare Act 2006). All pet owners have a positive duty of care to meet five welfare needs:

  • need for a suitable environment

  • need for a suitable diet

  • need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

  • need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals (companionship)

  • need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease (health-care)

You can listen to Sean Wensley of the British Veterinary Association discuss the issue of animal welfare on 5live here. §