Animal Welfare Five Needs

The concept of "Five Needs" for animal welfare comes from the Animal Welfare Act enacted in the United Kingdom in 2006. It is used to protect animals that can be properly cared for and treated appropriately to avoid unnecessary suffering. Taking the amphibians and reptiles as an example, even if chelonian, we can still classify them into turtles and tortoises. So it can't be generalized. We need to provide appropriate husbandry depending on the species and situations.

 

The following are the "Animal Welfare Five Needs":

1) A suitable diet

2) A suitable environment 

3) Exhibit normal behaviour patterns

4) To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

5) To be housed with, or apart from, other animals 

 

1) A suitable diet

Apart from providing the correspondence food and clean water at appropriate times, attention should also be paid to whether the nutrition and portion of food are correct. For example, juvenile red-eared sliders can ingest relatively higher levels of animal protein than adults. Therefore, owners can choose high-quality turtle food that matches their life stages. In addition, if the animals are undergoing veterinary treatment, they need to be fed according to the veterinarian's recommendations, and even provide nutritional supplements if needed. A proper diet can certainly prevent not only malnutrition, but also obesity and overweight.

 

2) A suitable environment 

Compare with cats and dogs, amphibians and reptiles are more static and less interactive, so we have to provide a stable environment with suitable equipment to avoid stress due to frequent changes. Using the African spurred tortoises as an example, they are the third largest tortoise in the world which can grow to 70 to 80 cm. When they are young, they can still live inside a suitable size tank; but when they grow up, due to their massive sizes, their owners need to provide an outdoor environment, such as a rooftop or garden at home, so they can have enough space and sunlight. Besides, the owners should also provide water bowls, substrates, thermal equipment, etc. These are very important to create a suitable environment.

 

3) Exhibit normal behaviour patterns

Amphibians and reptiles have many natural behaviours, but they are easily ignored by their owners, probably because we seldom put ourselves in their shoes! Imagine if an animal can't exhibit normal behaviour for a long time. It is very likely to cause physical and mental issues, especially they don't know how to tell us " how much pressure they are under". Therefore, the owners need to allow animals to exhibit normal behaviour patterns in their daily care to ensure animal welfare. For example, the Chinese water dragon is an arboreal diurnal lizard, and the owners should provide climbing sites by using mimic tree branches for sunbathing.

 

4) To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

In nature, where is the survival of the fittest, amphibians and reptiles are sometimes hunted by other animals. So they won't easily reveal their weaknesses, including diseases, to the outside world. It is because these may pose fatal dangers to them. It is the same under our care, in most cases, the disease is imperceptible in the early stage as it doesn't show symptoms until the last moment. Taking the horned frogs as an example, if we found their bodies red and swollen, please don't hesitate and seek medical attention immediately. Seeking professional veterinary treatment is the only way to improve the animal's chances of recovery. Since we don't know what's going on, we shouldn't use medicine indiscriminately, which will only aggravate the animal's suffering and even cause irreparable harm. Additionally, the owners must also treat their pets well, provide appropriate care, and prevent the animal from suffering pain or stress physically and psychologically.

 

5) To be housed with, or apart from, other animals 

Some social animals, such as dogs, they can get along better with other dogs, but most amphibians and reptiles don't. Using kingsnakes as an example, they have no concept of companionship, so they don't feel lonely, and even like to be alone. If the owners force two kingsnakes to coexist, it will only cause pressure on them, and even attack each other causing casualties. To sum up, amphibians and reptiles don't need to coexist with others in most cases, but need to be kept separately. 

 

"Animal welfare" requires multi-perspective thinking. Owners shouldn't only consider "what do I need them to be", but also "what do they need", so that it is easier to put ourselves in the "animal welfare".

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