Among other things, the 15 pages of new guidelines set specifications for how often dogs and cats receive food and exercise, the size and design of their living quarters, as well as the quality of the air Swedish pets breathe.
The rules have been in development since 2005 and are designed to ensure that dogs and cats “have the opportunity to feel good and behave in a natural manner.”
“We had rules for the care and handling of livestock, as well as for small caged animals, but nothing for dogs and cats,” said Cheryl Jones Fur, a zoologist with the Boards division for pets.
She explained that the rules came about to fill a gap in existing regulations, rather than because of any specific spike in cases of animal abuse.
“If anything we were a bit behind in developing the rules,” she said.
The guidelines mandate, for example, that dogs and cats should be checked on at least twice a day and “should have their need for social contact satisfied.”
Pets kept indoors should be within view of a window allowing sunlight, and dogs kept outdoors should have access to both sunny and shaded areas, as well as protection against wind and rain.
Levels of ammonia and carbon dioxide in the air must also be kept below 10 parts per million and 3000 parts per million, respectively.
In addition to regulating individual pet owners, the rules also extend to “doggie daycares” which are required to ensure that dogs which can’t get along with one another can be separated in order to “avoid conflicts.”
Officials hope the new set of rules will make it easier for animal inspection authorities who investigate cases of animal cruelty.
“Previously, inspectors had no regulatory support to which they could refer. It’s hard to convince owners to change their behavior without having something that specifies what is acceptable and what isn’t,” said Jones Fur.
Most often, those convicted of crimes against animals result in fines, though Jones Fur said it’s not unheard of for people to receive prison time as well.
Sweden already has some of the world’s toughest animal welfare laws, and Jones Fur believes the new guidelines will ensure that life as a dog in Sweden is good.
“Most animals have it pretty good here,” she said.