This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your rats have the right veterinary care to be healthy.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your rats need their own doctor too - a veterinarian is an animal doctor.
It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your rats. Ask your friends that are rat owners which veterinarians they recommend. If possible, visit the clinic beforehand and look around. Ask yourself: Is the waiting area clean? Are the staff helpful? Find out the opening hours and if they handle emergencies after hours as well.
Once you get your new rats, your family should register them with your chosen local veterinary clinic straight away. Make an appointment as soon as you can for a check-up. Your vet can then create a care programme for your rats. It is helpful to write a list of the questions you want to ask so everything can be covered.
Rats feel pain in the same way as other animals, including people. But they are not very good at showing outward signs of pain and may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong.
A change in the way your rat normally behaves can be an early sign they are ill or in pain. If your rat is not eating or is more quiet than usual, they are highly likely to be ill or in pain. You should talk to your veterinarian immediately.
Regular health check-ups with a vet is the best way of detecting any problems with your rat early. But remember, if any of your rats show any signs of injury or ill health, you must take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is late at night or on the weekend and your veterinary clinic is closed, there are great after-hours clinics available for emergencies. Make sure your family know where your closest after-hours veterinary clinic is.
Ask your parent or caregiver to help you handle your rats for signs of illness or injury every day.
Make sure this is done by someone else if you are away.
Consult your rats’ veterinarian immediately if you suspect your rat is in pain, ill or injured.
The first thing to remember when you are picking up or holding your rat is this – you are much, much bigger than they are! A frightened mouse can be very difficult to pick up. This can cause them to squirm or wiggle, which can be dangerous. The best way to pick up you rat is to teach them not to be afraid of you. This makes health checks easier and will avoid accident or injury.
A properly trained rat will walk right into your hand as soon as you put it in the enclosure. Rats should be allowed to investigate your hands in their own time.