For nearly all animals that have human caretakers, virtually everything in their lives is at their owners mercy and out of the animal’s control. What happens then is that the owner’s predominant emotions and responses become the guidance mechanism for the animal as to when they need to experience any of the 5 Freedoms below. Also what happens when the owner is unable to meet the freedoms? Animal Cruelty?
In 1965, Professor Roger Brambell was asked to investigate how animals are farmed intensively. This was the most comprehensive effort to define the basic needs of animals. As a result of his investigation Brambell made recommendations on how farm animals should be kept. “The 5 Freedoms”, although initially for farm animals, can apply to all animals including cats, dogs and horses. They can help us assess how well we are meeting our animals’ needs and therefore their welfare.
1. FREEDOM FROM THIRST, HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION
- Does your animal have access to fresh water?
- Does your animal have a wholesome diet that is natural to their species? Remember, it is us who chooses the time our animal eats and what they eat. So looking at it from your animal’s point of view, have we taken their free choice away?
- Do not over-feed your animal. In the wild animals would only choose to eat what they need and what is good for them. You would never find an overweight animal in the wild!
2. FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT DUE TO THE ENVIRONMENT
- Does your animal have an appropriate shelter and environment which provides protection from temperature and weather extremes? Consider it from an animal’s point of view. If whilst at work you have left the heating on and your animal gets too hot, does he have freedom to move somewhere cooler?
- Does your animal have a comfortable resting place of their own where they can feel safe and secure? It is especially important for older dogs/cats and puppies/kittens to have a quiet, safe area in an environment free from things that could cause harm.
3. FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY OR DISEASE
- If your animal is unwell, it is important that they receive a rapid diagnosis by a qualified veterinarian. In the wild animals would seek out healing herbs to help heal any ailments. Animals living in our homes are 100% reliant on us to seek out the care they need.
- Does your animal see a veterinarian on an annual basis? Prevention is the key to keeping your animal well.
4. FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOURS FOR THE SPECIES
- In the wild, horses would live in herds, dogs would live in packs. Does your animal have adequate opportunity to meet and interact with others of their own species? Dogs and cats are both social animals. Although we think we can speak dog or cat and think we know what they are saying and need, dogs and cats truly benefit from meeting animals of their own kind.
- Is your horse allowed to live with their pair bond/live in an established herd? A horse left on his own would be extremely stressed, as horses are prey animals. In the wild they would always be in a herd. More eyes to see the dangers!
- Does your dog get enough exercise? A pet that does not get enough exercise can become bored and frustrated. This could lead to them acting out behaviours which you may find undesirable.
- Your pet needs mental stimulation. This can be provided with a range of stimulating toys that you can use to play with them.
5. FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS
- What can cause your animal fear and distress? Puppies and kittens taken away from their mothers too young can become fearful and distressed as they have not had time to learn from their mother and siblings the skills to be a confident young animal in their own right.
- To prevent an adult pet from being unsure of himself and fearful, it is essential that he has been socialised to as many new experiences as possible during the critical socialisation period.
- Protect your pet by avoiding stressful situations.