British pet owners could face a £20,000 fine or even jail time if they feed their dog a meat-free diet.
Experts warned that this behaviour could be dangerous as dogs primarily rely on their humans to provide them with crucial nutrients. Removing meat from some dog breeds’ diets can lead to overarching health conditions.
According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, a “suitable diet” that meets “all of your dog’s nutritional needs” is pivotal. And while this piece of legislation doesn’t specify about vegan and vegetarian diets, in 2020, the president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Daniella Dos Santos, said:
“If your personal belief system means you don’t want to eat any animal protein, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of your pet.
“It is theoretically possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it’s much easier to get it wrong than to get it right,” she continued.
“You would have to do it under the supervision of a veterinary-trained nutritionist.”
Under section nine of the act, owners are also responsible for ensuring their pet has a safe living environment; exhibits normal behaviour patterns; housed with, or apart from, other animals; be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Failure to comply with the warnings and advisories could result in a hefty £20,000 fine, a potential court date and, worst case scenario, jail time. Owners could also have their beloved pets taken away or even be banned from having pets again.
A 2019 study revealed a significant increase of pet owners who were putting their pets on meat-free diets. Cats are carnivores which means a deficit of meat could result in severe health conditions.
However, some dog breeds would struggle with a plant-based diet due to their difficulty digesting high-fibre foods.