Children are being encouraged to learn about how to care for animals in a bid to reduce irresponsible pet ownership.

The results of a survey by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) show 85% of school children have never heard of the five animal welfare needs and that more than half of young vets had settled on pursuing veterinary medicine by the age of 10, so educating primary age youngsters is key.

To support the next generation to be more aware of how to care for their pets, the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition has launched a set of stickers to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the Animal Welfare Acts as an educational tool for vets, teachers and parents.

The stickers are designed to be a used as a fun way of introducing and discussing the five vital needs of animals as described in the UK’s Animal Welfare Acts:

• the provision of a suitable living environment

• a suitable diet

• the need to exhibit normal behaviour

• to be housed with, or apart from, other animals

• to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

BVA hopes that by teaching children about the five welfare needs, they will in turn discuss this with their family and friends at home too. Apart from the principles of responsible ownership, it is hoped that sensitisation to the welfare needs of animals will instil in young people a lasting respect and compassion for all animals, from fish and rabbits to dogs and horses.

John Fishwick, president of the BVA, said: “Year on year, irresponsible ownership and lack of owner understanding for pets’ needs comes out in vets’ top three concerns.

“Educating children and young adults about the five welfare needs of animals is an invaluable step towards ensuring that the next generation not only values the human-animal bond but is aware of its responsibilities towards pets.

“We hope that using these stickers and holding sessions on animal welfare at school, local groups or in practice will translate to happy pet owners and, indeed, happy healthy pets too.”

To order a free set of five welfare need stickers email media@bva.co.uk with the requested amount (max 10 sheets/150 stickers) and a postal address.

The Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition includes BVA, the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), Blue Cross, PDSA and RSPCA.