What we do

The Companion Animals Department (CAD) is dedicated to protecting and improving the welfare of the millions of animals kept as pets, working animals and athletes in the UK.

The term 'companion animal' is acknowledged to cover over a thousand species of companion animals although the department's current remit focuses on the following species:

  • dogs (including racing greyhounds)
  • cats
  • horses, ponies and donkeys (including leisure and competition animals)
  • rabbits
    Horse eating hay © IStock Photos / Swisher 1115
  • ferrets
  • gerbils
  • guinea pigs
  • hamsters
  • chinchillas
  • mice
  • rats
  • pigeons and doves.


Welfare triangle- experience, science and common sense ©Mark Evans/RSPCA

CAD believes that good welfare is best achieved through applying a balanced combination of science, experience and common sense. The department uses a logo called the 'Welfare Triangle' to reflect this approach to companion animal welfare.

CAD's vision

Everything the RSPCA says and does to help companion animals is based on science, experience and common sense.

CAD's mission

To empower people, both within and outside the RSPCA, with knowledge about companion animal welfare.

CAD's approach

On behalf of the RSPCA, we generate, collate, review and communicate science and good practice to encourage and enable people to protect and improve the welfare of companion animals.

How we work

Kittten reaching out with paw © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary 


Our companion animal welfare scientists work in a variety of different ways to improve companion animal welfare, including:

1. Providing scientific and technical information to underpin RSPCA policies, position statements and communications relating to companion animal welfare.
We also provide scientific and technical advice externally to government, industry and the media.

For example, the department has provided scientific and technical information for RSPCA responses to several government consultations relating to secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act, 2006. These include:

  • proposed Code of Practice for the welfare of dogs (Defra - England)
  • proposed Code of Practice for the welfare of cats (Defra - England)
  • proposed Code of Practice for the welfare of rabbits (Welsh Assembly Government)
  • proposed Animal Welfare (Electronic Devices) (Wales) Regulations
  • proposals for Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations (Defra - England).

2. Representing the RSPCA, with respect to companion animal welfare, to external bodies, committees and working groups.

For example, one of our scientists recently gave technical evidence at both the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW - England) and Bateson Inquiries into dog breeding.

3. Collating companion animal science and experience in order to promote responsible pet ownership.

We use scientific information, experience and common sense to produce information that can be used by the public to ensure that they act responsibly and meet their animals' welfare needs.

For example, our scientists have provided scientific information to help support numerous RSPCA campaigns that aim to promote responsible pet ownership including 'Keep dogs cool' and ' Bang, fireworks frighten animals'.

4. Commissioning scientific studies into companion animal welfare.
For example, in 2008 we commissioned an independent scientific report into pedigree dog breeding in the UK and have previously funded studies investigating behavioural problems in dogs and the spatial requirements of pet rabbits.

Read reports and resources produced by our companion animals department.

Find out more about who we are and who we work with.