While groups can disagree on specifics (e.g., which brand of food is best, whether harnesses or collars are preferable), there are 5 fundamental freedoms to which every dog is entitled:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
All dogs need ready access to fresh water and a diet that allows them to maintain full health and vigour. This must be specific to the dog. For example, a puppy, an adult dog would need different types of food provided on different schedules
- Freedom from discomfort
All dogs need an appropriate living environment, including protection from the elements, and a clean, safe and comfortable resting area. Dogs must be provided with bedding and not sleep on a cold hard floor. Overcrowding will increase a dog’s physical discomfort and should be avoided. Don’t forget about temperature and environmental factors, such as noise levels and access to natural light. And if a dog is outside, it must have shelter from the elements as well as appropriate food and water bowls that will not freeze or tip over.
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
All dogs must be afforded care that prevents illness and injury, and that assures rapid diagnosis and treatment if illness/injury should occur. This entails vaccinating dogs, monitoring dogs’ physical health, rapidly treating any injuries and providing appropriate medications for treatment and pain.
- Freedom to express normal behavior
All dogs need sufficient space and proper facilities to allow them to move freely and fully, and to engage in the same types of activities as other dogs of their species. They also need to be able to interact with—or avoid—others of their own kind as desired. They must able to stretch every part of their body (from nose to tail), run, jump and play at will. Are you overcrowded? Are you housing too many dogs in one room? If so, the dogs are probably unable to experience the fourth freedom.
- Freedom from fear and distress
All dogs need both a general environment and handling that allows them to avoid mental suffering and stress. The mental health of a dog is just as important as its physical health. Are you providing sufficient enrichment? Allowing the dog to hide in a safe space when needed? Ensuring that there is not too much noise? Are there too many dogs in one room? Remember, psychological stress can quickly transition into physical illness.