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Just how much do you love your pet?

Do you have a pet? It is no secret that British people love their pets to bits and would do anything to make their pet's life enjoyable. But just how far does this love go? The answer is QUITE far.

As you walk anywhere in Britain, you are greeted by hundreds of literally smiling cat faces, which makes you think that the Cheshire cat in the Alice in Wonderland's book might not have been a mere product of Lewes Carroll's imagination. Well, British cats have every reason to smile. British pet owners spend around £3.5 billion a year on pet care and products. In the last five years, the amount spent on pet food, toys and vet bills has risen by almost 25%.

There are some pet owners who spend thousands of pounds on medical care to keep their sick pets alive. Pets can even have their teeth cleaned and special pet contact lenses prescribed. Recently, it has become legal to use organ transplants to treat serious pet illnesses, such as kidney failure. However, it has not yet been decided on the source of donor organs. In America, organ transplants for pets have been allowed for a long time. Normally, owners of pets receiving the organs are expected to adopt the donor animal, usually a stray animal, and care for both.

There are a number of pet accessories available to pets and their owners. Special flashing collars for walking at night, water-resistant dog jackets, car ramps for old or overweight dogs - you name it, they have got it! There are also special accessories designed to keep your pet fit, such as treadmills for dogs to exercise indoors or orthopaedic dog beds for dogs that suffer from a bad back. There is even a special pet hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne that offers cats and dogs an opportunity to exercise in the indoor gym, relax in the jacuzzi or watch videos of their owners on personal TV and video sets.

Unfortunately, in spite of Britain's reputation as pet lovers, animal abuse and cruelty still happen. There are a number of organisations that protect animals in Britain, but the most important is the RSPCA - the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The word ‘Royal’ indicates that the Society is under special patronage of the Queen. Compare this to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and you will get a quick taste of how serious the British are about animal welfare.

Although all pets are entitled to love and devotion from their owners, there are some pets that deserve good treatment and care more than others. These are assistance dogs. Endal is an assistance dog owned by a Gulf-war veteran Allen Parton, who is confined to a wheel-chair after suffering a serious head injury, has even won a number of awards recognising the dog's achievements in helping people. Endal can use cashpoint machines, buy bus tickets and do the shopping. Endal is not the only dog that deserves a reward. For example, Rosie, a search and rescue dog from Scotland, has once helped find a three-year-old boy who had gone missing. The list could be easily continued.

Well, the British may be crazy about animals, but isn't it nice to know that the animals themselves play an increasingly important role in British life.

© Mary Moor

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