Image caption James Dailly says pets can be hard to protect in hot weather
Wildlife welfare experts are calling for better control of the livestock industry and for Britain to develop a vaccine to protect dogs and cats against flu-like disease in hot weather.
Richard Best, chief executive of the Mammal Society and land animal expert James Dailly said animals suffered needlessly from livestock diseases.
Flu strains can spread easily through cattle.
“Without appropriate vaccinating, we would be potentially putting them at increased risk of other diseases,” Mr Best told BBC News.
Vaccinating UK farmers
Recent outbreaks of respiratory disease such as Foot and Mouth have forced the government to suspend the import of thousands of continental live animals because the animals could not be vaccinated.
So why can’t the same regulation apply to our own livestock? The problem is that there is no existing regulation of vaccines for livestock in the UK.
But Mr Best says that the public has “absolutely no reason” not to vaccinate their pets.
“This should be part of how you would help to protect against livestock diseases,” he said.
Mr Dailly said if the vaccination was successful in the cattle industry it should be a “no brainer” for the other livestock and pets sectors.
The concern is that farmers could infect livestock who have not been vaccinated in the UK with the same diseases.
The threat could be similar to the lack of vaccines for pets in Europe, say experts.
The concerns were highlighted when a shipment of cattle returned from Latin America containing a particularly virulent strain of the disease, known as foot and mouth, was refused entry into the UK.
One of the reasons given for the ban was concerns that the animals might have been contaminated by the disease in Europe.
Sources say this is the only time such a ban has been placed on British beef.
The illegal export of meat products was stopped after the arrival of the first imported cattle. The UK is currently trying to halt the sale of knock-off burgers made from European meat.
Increase in flea and tick control
Meanwhile, guidelines from The Food Standards Agency say farmers and vets should “lead by example” when it comes to controlling biting diseases including fleas and ticks, which account for £2.8bn of pet bills each year.
In order to meet the increased demand for flea and tick control, many councils and vets are considering introducing tick-deferring contracts.
Flea treatment is already a legally-binding contract.
Mr Dailly, who is on the board of the RSPCA, wants farmers to sign tick-deferring contracts with vets, which would give vets an obligation to prevent tick migration to UK pets.
He says vaccination and tick control can be as simple as farmers providing storage rooms for ticks.
Meanwhile, the government is planning to draft in new regulations for the treatment of animals that are being transported in designated hot climate zones.
These zones would include parts of south-east England, parts of Scotland and Wales and parts of France and Italy.
If vets failed to prevent inhumane transport practices for slaughtering livestock, they could face criminal proceedings.
The new rules are part of the government’s broader strategy to “avoid unnecessary suffering” of animals while they are in transport.
Mr Dailly says he is happy with the plan.
The problem is that while there are laws protecting animals in transport, he says, “the laws don’t protect animals once they are back at the home”.
Industry sources say meat standards, which need to be better enforced, are the responsibility of local authorities, not the private sector.
Mr Dailly says he will be helping to lead a campaign to change this.
Don’t We Have a Vaccine for Pets? is BBC News’ ongoing investigation into how well you know your pets.
This is part of our ongoing investigation to find out more about what pets are like and what makes them tick. You can now also download the BBC News app to keep up-to-date with our continuing investigations and features.