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Animal welfare in severe weather

Advice on protecting the welfare of animals in severe weather has been issued by the Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs).

While priority will generally be given to human needs, protecting the welfare of animals in severe weather is also important. During periods of severe weather officials (Local Authorities and Animal Health) will monitor the situation cat_smallclosely in liaison with the RSPCA, NFU, and other organisations who play a role in assisting farmers and pet owners to protect the welfare of their animals.

Under the law an animal keeper has a duty of care to his animals and is required to take reasonable steps to protect their welfare and prevent suffering.

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.

In an emergency you should contact the RSPCA for help and advice by calling 0300 1234 999.

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