Fur flies over pet advice

IT'S not exactly what you would expect the Scottish Government to fork out thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on.

• Nearly 30,000 has been spent on the booklets

But almost 30,000 has been spent on producing a trio of glossy booklets explaining how to look after cats, dogs and horses.

The brochures were produced by the government and are available for free at veterinary practices and animal welfare organisations, including Scottish SPCA centres.

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Copies of the codes have also been sent to local authorities, various members of the public and to riding schools, pony clubs and livery yards.

As many as 10,000 copies of The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats have been printed at a cost of 7500.

A further 10,000 copies of the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs were produced at the same cost and 15,000 Code of Practice for the Welfare of Equidae booklets were printed, leaving taxpayers 14,500 out of pocket.

The booklets feature topics ranging from the particular animal's healthy weight, to sleeping and resting areas.

An Edinburgh cat owner, who did not want to be named, told the Evening News: "These glossy products from the Scottish Government suggest a totally unnecessary and wasteful use of public money."

The total cost of producing the three brochures - 29,500 - was for printing and production only, and did not take into account the amount of time spent working on the booklets by civil servants.

Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh South, Mike Pringle, said: "Even a junior civil servant is on 24,000 to 25,000 a year, which is 500 a week.

"If they spent four weeks in total on a booklet, you're talking about 2000, and that's just for one civil servant."

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Tory MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, David McLetchie, added: "The codes are even glossier than the coats of the beautiful animals who are pictured in them, but one has to question whether this is a sensible use of taxpayers' money at the present time."Information about how to look after cats, dogs and horses is readily available in other books at the library or over the internet.

"This is one of the areas that we really need to tighten up on and hardly constitutes a front-line service priority for the Scottish Government."

However, Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said providing guidance to animal owners has always been part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

He added: "A lot of the cruelty cases that we investigate are a result of ignorance towards animal welfare, therefore we welcome the codes of practice for the welfare of cats, dogs and equidae."

Manager of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, David Ewing, said: "I do think these are useful booklets and they will help people who are starting out as first-time pet owners, but people who have had a few pets in the past are probably not going to get a lot of value out of them."

But he added: "Sometimes cruelty is brought about by people's ignorance, so anything that gives additional information is a good thing."

Meanwhile, a Scottish Government spokeswoman, who confirmed that the government was not obliged to produce the brochures, said the booklets, printed in March, were mainly accessed on the Scottish Government website to keep costs to a minimum. "They were designed to give pet owners basic information about how to care for their animals, as most cases of neglect are down to a lack of knowledge rather than actual abuse," she said.

Booklets "were published by all UK administrations," she added.

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Campaign director of The TaxPayers' Alliance, Emma Boon, said: "Sadly, booklets like these will not stop those who wilfully mistreat or neglect animals and the government should focus on more pressing matters."