Kindness Corner: Five Freedoms for Every Animal Friend

By Lindsay Woge, Humane Educator

At Animal Friends, we are thinking outside the cage. And, we love animals as much as you do! While we hope to give as many cats, rabbits and dogs as possible a chance to find a loving home once they leave the shelter, we also know that it takes more than love alone for an animal to be happy and healthy with their new family. Learning about the Five Freedoms can help us give the best care possible to our animal friends. Making sure your family pet has all the freedoms they need to be their best selves can also lead to a happier household.

Imagine this scene … a young girl and her family are sitting down to her favorite dinner – and it tastes as good as it smells! It is cold outside, but the fireplace keeps her warm and cozy. Her friend has joined her for mealtime and as they eat, they talk about how great school was today. She knows that tomorrow will also be great because her family takes good care of her, her teachers teach her new things and she and her friends enjoy doing all sorts of activities together. This girl enjoys many things that animals would enjoy too. She has Five Freedoms.

At Animal Friends, our Animal Enrichment Specialist is known to say, “There is more to life than eating, sleeping and using the potty!” While that may cause us to giggle, think about it for a moment … this means that, while healthy food, fresh water, toileting and a cozy bed are clearly things an animal needs, animals’ lives are complex – just like ours. Consider what the Five Freedoms can tell us about being sure our pets get to use their bodies, brains and senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell.

Do your pets have what they need to be themselves? Cats need to use their claws to condition their nails, dogs must sniff to keep their active brains engaged and rabbits must chew to keep their teeth in good shape. By simply giving your cat a scratching post for claw work, your dog a sniffing mat to keep them entertained and engaged and your rabbit approved wood toys (not cables and cords!) for chewing, we can make a difference in our own lives and those of our animal friends.

Many pet experts agree that making sure animals in the care of humans have these freedoms is our duty and responsibility. Now imagine living by yourself with no friends and nothing to do! How would that make you feel? Probably not so great. Since we as humans get the privilege of living with pets, let’s be sure to remember the Five Freedoms so that our animal companions get to live their best lives!

The Five Freedoms include:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst with access to fresh water and food to maintain health and energy.
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid health care.
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and the company of an animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
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