What is Animal Welfare & Why is it Important

animal welfare for domesticated animals

Animal welfare is a widely debated topic – and one that can be hard to understand. Under the broad definition, animal welfare refers to the quality of life experienced by animals, including how well the animal is coping within its current situation and surroundings. Some people advocate for animal welfare and help create standards and practices that protect animals so that animals stay healthy and safe. Animal welfare also aims to bring attention and potentially change the harsh conditions that some endure daily due to human behavior. From what makes up animal welfare, to the legislations that protect animals today – learn all about animal welfare and why it’s so important right here.

Breaking Down Animal Welfare

At its foundation, animal welfare is the physical and mental state of an animal and the treatment that the animal receives. However, this complex topic has multiple views focusing on the different issues related to animal pain and suffering, the physical and emotional health of animals, and the ability of animals to engage in their normal, species-typical behavior in the environment they are in.

An animal in a good state of welfare, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), is when the animal is “healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress.”

The following things are included in the human responsibility to ensure animal welfare when dealing with domesticated animals:

  • Proper housing
  • Management
  • Nutrition
  • Disease prevention and treatment
  • Responsible care
  • Humane handling
  • Humane euthanasia when necessary

Animal welfare is a human responsibility that is – and will continue – to be important as animals play a vital role in the world around us, balance the ecosystem, and continue to suffer under human implications.

Animal Welfare Laws and Regulations in America

In America, the government has implemented laws that protect and provide animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulation require the minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. This law mainly involves animals that are being kept in zoos or used in labs, as well as puppy mills.

Other laws that are implemented to promote animal welfare in America are:

  • The 28 Hour Law - Put into place in 1873, this law requires vehicles transporting animals to stop every 28 hours to allow the animals to eat, drink, and exercise.
  • The Humane Slaughter Act, or the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act – Passed in 1958, this law requires that animals must be stunned into unconsciousness before slaughter to minimize pain.
  • The Endangered Species Act – This law was put into place in 1973 to protect fish, mammals, and birds. This act outlines procedures for federal agencies to follow regarding these species and the consequences for those who violate them.

And most recently, the PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act was signed into law in 2019. This act specifically makes extreme forms of animal cruelty in or affecting commerce or within the US a federal crime. This is a big deal because it means those who perform these acts towards animals can be charged with a crime.

There are a variety of other laws that apply to certain states and cities for animals and their welfare. Local laws are just as impactful as federal laws in making a change.

pet dog in backyard

Current Animal Welfare Issues

Despite these rules and regulations in place, there are still animal welfare issues today across the country, and on a larger scale, the world. Here are animal welfare issues that are still prominent today:

  • Abandoned pets - The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that around 6.5 million animals enter the shelter system across the U.S. each year, with roughly 1.5 million euthanized annually.
  • Animal Cruelty – Intentional acts that cause unnecessary harm to animals still happen today.
  • Animal Neglect – Purposely ignoring the needs of a companion animal
  • Feral cats – An estimated 60 to 100 million feral cats roam the United States.
  • Poaching – A form of illegal hunting of animals that are protected, endangered, or in a habitat that is supposed to be protected.
  • Puppy mills – Breeder dogs are kept in small cages for most of their lives, forced to produce generations of puppies that are going to be taken away from them. They rarely leave the cages or experience the outdoors.

Treating Animals Humanely

It’s not hard to treat animals humanely and with respect. Even if you don’t have pets, there are still ways that you can contribute to animals and animal welfare in your local community – including by participating in your local TNR programs with the help of humane Havahart® traps. Check out our Facebook Page to become a part of the Havahart Community, which advocates for animal welfare. Plus, sign up for our E-Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest information about products, news, and other exclusive information.

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