FAQs: running a pet show
When carefully planned and managed, pet shows can
provide an opportunity to introduce a wide range of welfare issues
to children and young people in a practical and meaningful way.
Here is some helpful guidance from the RSPCA...
Pet shows provide a fabulous child-friendly event for all types
of school, but require stringent planning. If running a pet show,
there is a responsibility from both the owners and the school to
meet the welfare needs of all animals attending. The Animal Welfare
Act (2006) is in place to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals
and, although the owner always has legal responsibility for their
animal, everyone involved must ensure that animals are well cared
for during their visit. This includes the provision of suitable
accommodation, food, water and not forcing animals to do anything
they don't want to do.
What types of animal should we encourage families to bring
Consider your choice of animals carefully - while it's easy
enough to transport rodents, these are usually only awake at night
and are sensitive to loud noises, so this isn't recommended.
Animals attending the show should be confident around new people
and in new situations, good with other animals and children, and
familiar with basic commands to ease handling (dogs).
All animals should be in good health and be up to date with any
vaccinations/parasite treatment as appropriate before they come
into the school. Consider asking owners to provide evidence of
If you are charging a fee for admittance, you will also need to
think about whether any dogs attending will have docked tails. It
is illegal to show a dog whose tail was docked after 27 March 2007
in Wales or 5 April 2007 in England. The only exceptions are dogs
with a veterinary certificate.
Several aspects of including cats at your event could cause them
stress. These include: the break in routine, transportation to the
event, the unfamiliarity of the place in which the event is taking
place, the presence of other cats and presence of unfamiliar
people. An alternative to bringing cats along could be to run a
photo competition, with categories such as 'cats sleeping in
Are there any specific things to consider when it comes to
planning, i.e. layout and format?
Aim to provide defined areas for different types of animal. Pay
particular attention to their specific environmental requirements
and keep certain animals separated.
Animals such as rabbits and rodents (which are prey species) may
become stressed if they can see, smell or hear other predatory
species such as dogs.
Levels of light, heat and noise must also be appropriate for
each species. For example, rabbits can suffer from heat stress
while others may be particularly sensitive to cold.
Consider the length of time that animals will be present - is
this likely to cause them anxiety? Will they have appropriate
opportunities to rest and go to the toilet? If an animal does
become stressed, they will need to be removed immediately so make
sure this will be possible.
How far will the animals have to travel and will they be
transported in a way that means they won't be anxious? This is
especially important with visiting animals from external
We're thinking of booking an exotic animal company to attend
our fair - is there anything our PTA should bear in mind?
If external organisations are bringing animals along, make sure
you're aware of any specific requirements that their animals need
so you can cater for them. Research companies thoroughly and don't
be afraid to ask if they are licensed appropriately with your local
The RSPCA would have concerns about exotic species being used in
an event such as a pet show, as it would be extremely difficult to
meet their specialist needs, such as temperature gradient,
humidity, UV light and social grouping.
As wild animals kept in captivity, exotic pets have specialist
needs that are difficult to meet in a captive environment. Under
the Animal Welfare Act 2006, an owner of an exotic pet has a legal
duty of care to meet the welfare needs of the animal - including in
a temporary environment. Failure to do so could be an offence.
Some animals, such as primates, are unsuitable as pets due to
their complex needs and for this reason, should not be included in
pet shows. We would recommend that the organisers refer to the RSPCA's Performing Animal guidelines.
What sort of categories should we judge on?
When you are thinking of your choice of classes, it is important
to judge on health and welfare, not just appearance. Some animals
are bred to look a certain way and it can actually cause suffering
(for example, the RSPCA has concerns over the welfare of some
pedigree dogs). You might like to judge animals based on their
overall condition instead. Possible categories could be 'best child
handler', 'best behaved pet', 'best pet story', 'healthiest coat',
'best rescue story', 'waggiest tail', 'best at musical sit' (like
musical chairs), 'best object retriever' and 'brightest eyes'.
For more details about meeting the welfare needs of
pets, visit rspca.org.uk. Check with your PTA insurance
provider to see whether certain criteria applies.
NOTE: Read our step-by-step guide to running a pet
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