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Bläske, Alexandra; Schwarzer, Angela; Ebner, Magdalena V.; Gerbig, Hendrikje; Reese, Sven; Erhard, Michael; Wöhr, Anna-Caroline (2022): Evaluation of small mammal pet supplies offered in German retail under animal welfare aspects. PLoS ONE, 17 (2): e0262658. ISSN 1932-6203

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German retailers offer a large variety of accessories for pets. However, not all products are suitable for pet husbandry. Several articles can negatively influence the wellbeing of pets or cause injuries, but empirical studies that evaluate accessories for small pets under animal welfare aspects are rare. In the present study, we assessed articles manufactured or sold in Germany in the product categories pet cages, hay racks, running wheels, exercise balls, harnesses and leashes, tube systems, and hamster bedding. To do so, we searched 28 German websites, visited 50 pet shops and 13 home improvement and garden centers on site and afterwards examined the animal welfare compliance of the products according to various evaluation criteria. Most of the examined products were rated not suitable for pet husbandry and were animal-welfare-adverse. This result applies to 86.1% (n = 87) of the 101 assessed running wheel models, 82.7% (n = 172) of the 208 assessed pet cage models and 55.6% (n = 40) of the 72 assessed hay rack models. The articles in the product categories exercise balls, harnesses and leashes, tube systems, and hamster bedding were also found unsuitable due to animal welfare concerns. Furthermore, we found clear shortcomings regarding article declarations. In some cases, relevant product information (e.g., dimensions) were missing, or the presented information was too general (e.g., rodent cage). Improperly declared pet accessories make it difficult for pet owners to decide whether a product is suitable or unsuitable for the species they keep. A declaration duty for manufacturers of pet products could ensure that German retailers only offer properly declared pet accessories and facilitate the decision for pet owners to purchase products appropriate for the pets they keep. Furthermore, a voluntary product certification for manufacturers would allow retailers to check the animal welfare compliance of articles before including them in their assortment. If a product is unsuitable for pet husbandry because it does not meet the set requirements, it must be considered animal-welfare-adverse and removed from the assortment. As done for the Austrian “animal welfare label,” an independent, qualified third party could do the certification.

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