TIR calendar 2019 – April question on animal welfare law
The TIR calendar is quite popular because it not only contains wonderful animal photos but also answers a monthly question regarding the human-animal relationship. April is dedicated to the question "How does the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulate cat ownership?".
April 15, 2019
"I am finally ready to get a cat. Since there are so many homeless animals, I would definitely want to adopt a cat from a shelter. What legal provisions do I have to comply with regarding cat ownership?"
Every animal keeper (that includes animal owners and anyone with an animal under their care) – and thus the keeper of a cat – is required to meet the animal's needs as best as possible. They must ensure the animal's physical and psychological well-being and make sure that the animal is free from pain, suffering, harm, fear, and any other violations of its dignity. Anyone who keeps or takes care of animals must also provide them with adequate feed, care, and enrichment as well as species-appropriate housing.
Apart from these general provisions, the animal welfare legislation only provides for a few specific regulations regarding the keeping of cats. These mainly concern the housing area and its minimum dimensions. The law also stipulates that cats must have room to retreat and be provided with enrichment like climbing trees and scratching posts as well as elevated resting areas. There must be one litter box per cat and, if there is more than one cat in a household, the cats must be left to decide for themselves what litter box to use. For groups of 6 cats or more, there can be one litter box for two animals at a time, as long as it is cleaned several times a day or the cats have outdoor access.
Cats may be kept in individual enclosures smaller than what the animal welfare legislation prescribes for normal enclosures for a maximum period of three weeks. This could be the case, for example, when a cat has just arrived at a shelter and needs to be accustomed to the other animals or during the first two weeks of the lactation period when mother cats remain near their young. Cats kept in individual enclosures must be given the freedom to roam for some time outside of their enclosure on at least five days per week. Male breeding cats may not be kept in individual enclosures between mating periods.
The animal welfare legislation only lays down minimum requirements with regard to the treatment of animals. Responsible animal keepers will always go beyond these provisions to provide the animals in their care with a life as appropriate to their species as possible.
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