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Dog days are over: what’s behind the decline in pets?

The following article was written by Patrick Barkham for The Guardian, 13th June 2016. Full link to article appears at end.

Purrgatory … are we no longer offering pets sanctuary? Photograph: Yizi/Getty Images/Flickr Flash

Are Bella, Tiddles and Ginger an endangered species? The companion animals of the once great pet-lovers of Britain appear to be falling out of favour.

Pet food sales are in decline and the pet food market is stagnating, according to Mintel’s Lifestyle report on consumer trends. Mintel pinpoints demographic changes: an increase in older people less likely to own a pet and Generation Rent, for whom pet ownership may be prohibited.

Queen Victoria popularised dog ownership and anointed the world’s first animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, but after decades of the number of dogs and cats in Britain increasing (from an estimated 4.7m dogs and 4.1m cats in 1965 to 9m dogs and 7.9m cats in 2014), a Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association survey last year found a fall to 8.5m dogs and 7.4m cats last year.

These stats are based on a relatively small sample, but the trend is mirrored in other affluent, English-speaking countries: dog and cat ownership in the United States, Canada and particularly Australia all seem to be in decline.

But why is this? Urban living may be a factor. “Older people – more than a third of us will be over 55 in the next five years – don’t tend to have really high pet ownership,” says Ina Mitskavets, a senior analyst for Mintel. “The market is driven by families with kids, who tend to have the most pets per household.”

Peak Stuff – the preference for experiences over possessions – may also be reducing the appeal of pets. “I’ve recently got a couple of kittens,” says Mitskavets, “and my life has completely changed. So I can understand it’s a huge commitment, and a lot of people shy away from commitments these days because the pace of life is so incredible.”

Commitment-phobia is also cited by Marc Abraham, the TV vet and animal welfare campaigner. “People are reluctant to commit to pet ownership, especially dogs, because they require walking twice a day and live to 15 years old. That’s a huge commitment, and we want to go on lots of holidays,” he says. “Maybe the human need for companionship is being delivered now more by social media than getting a pet.”

“I can’t bear it, it’s heartbreaking,” says the novelist Jilly Cooper of the decline in pet ownership. Cooper, who campaigned for the Animals in War memorial in London and whose new novel, Mount!, has “dogs on every page”, believes that red tape is contributing to the reduction in the number of dog owners.

“It’s almost impossible to get a dog from a dogs’ home now,” she says. “Friends of mine fell in love with a greyhound [in a sanctuary] and after five meetings and walks and interviews were told they couldn’t have him because they were both out of work.” Many parks and landowners also demand that dogs are walked on a lead and, she says, “walking a dog on a lead is no fun for the dog or anybody”.

Cooper found her greyhound, Bluebell, “a huge comfort” after the death of her husband, Leo, and believes dogs are particularly beneficial for grieving or lonely older people – a view supported by a review of scientific literature in the BMJ. “The one panic for older people is that the dog might outlive them,” says Cooper, “but it’s worth the risk for the joy.”

Abraham agrees with Cooper. The apparent decline in pet ownership is tragic, he says, “not only for the clear health benefits that pets bring to us, but for what it teaches not just children but adults about empathy, compassion, commitment and looking after something more vulnerable than you”.

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2016/jun/13/dog-days-are-over-whats-behind-the-decline-in-pets

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Scottish pine martens breeding in Wales

Pine martenTwenty pine martens were captured in the Scottish Highlands for release in woodland in Wales

Scottish pine martens have started raising young in Wales for the first time in a six year-long conservation project.

Twenty pine martens were captured and released into the Welsh countryside last year.

The animals, one of Britain’s rarest carnivores, were caught by the Inverness, Ross and Skye team at Forestry Enterprise Scotland (FES).

At least three of the 10 females captured recently gave birth to kits.

The capture and release of the Scottish martens forms part of the Welsh Pine Marten Recovery Project.

The animals were introduced to woodland owned by Natural Resources Wales and their behaviour is radio tracked.

Behavioural changes indicated that birthing might be imminent and images from remote cameras have now confirmed that at least five kits have been born.

‘Amazing animals’

Giles Brockman, of the FES team involved, said: “The pine marten carries the title of Britain’s second rarest carnivore after the wildcat, so these births in Wales are excellent news.

“These amazing animals are comparatively common in Scotland compared with Wales, where they were on the point of being extinct. In fact our research into these animals on the national forest estate indicates that there are healthy populations in many forests.

“Conservation is a big part of our remit so once The Trust had obtained the correct licence from SNH we were more than happy to help and to donate some of our pine martens to the project and help them take their plans forward.”

‘Danger list’

A further 20 pine martens will be relocated from Scotland in the autumn of this year to forests in Wales and also England.

Mr Brockman said: “Pine marten were about to disappear from the Welsh countryside altogether so this project is a good result for all concerned.

“Hopefully, with a further boost later this year, these amazing animals will be taken off the danger list.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-36498518