Dog owners who put their animals on a vegetarian diet could face fines of up to £20,000 and a jail sentence of 51 weeks.
Humans have become increasingly more selective with their diets, often driven by the desire to reduce their carbon footprint and avoid eating animal products.
Our dogs are almost entirely reliant on their owners for their nutrition, and owners who force their dog to go on a meat-free diet could be falling foul of animal welfare laws.
According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, you are required to feed your dog a “suitable diet”, which means that you could get prosecuted should it be ruled that the diet you choose doesn’t fit that description.
The Blue Cross outlines all the pieces of legislation that apply to dog owners in Britain and shows that all pet owners have a legal duty to provide for their welfare needs.
Under section nine of the act, all domestic animals have the legal right to: live in a suitable environment; eat a suitable diet; exhibit normal behaviour patterns; be housed with, or apart from, other animals; be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
The advice on a suitable diet for dogs doesn’t include any mention of vegan or vegetarian diets, but does mention that any diet, from wet food or raw food to dry kibble, should “meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs”.
Speaking about the issue in 2020, Daniella Dos Santos, the president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: “In the UK, under the Animal Welfare Act the owner has the obligation to feed the animal an appropriate diet.
“If your personal belief system means you don’t want to eat any animal protein, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of your pet.”
She added: “It is theoretically possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it’s much easier to get it wrong than to get it right.
“You would have to do it under the supervision of a veterinary-trained nutritionist.”
Failure to feed your dog a suitable diet could therefore end up with a hefty fine, a potential court date and in worse case scenarios a prison sentence.
Owners could also have their pets taken away from them or be banned from ever having pets again in the future.