There are increasing fears that animals may suffer as more people want a slice of ‘the good life’.

The RSPCA is worried that people with little or no experience of rearing livestock are taking on animals without realising what is involved. There is particular concern about the growing numbers of farm animals being kept in urban areas.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “If you are thinking of buying a farm animals as a pet, they have a lot of very specific needs if they are to have a happy, healthy life.”

She said that as long as key criteria are met – clean water, correct food, appropriate shelter, exercise space, their keeping with more of their kind, and access to a vet if required – there is no problem with urban livestock.

Tom Davis, manager of London’s Vauxhall City Farm, said they get a phone call a week about rehoming where things don’t work out. Sometimes birds are dumped outside in cardboard boxes.

RSPCA?Animal Welfare Officer, Steve Donohue, who is based in East Devon, said: “A significant number of the people we deal with have set out to live a semi-sufficient dream, raise their own meat and live off their land.

“But for others, there is a very real feeling that as they have bought a house which has land, they should somehow fill it – and that is a very dangerous and misguided feeling to have.”

While most of these people are intelligent and would spend weeks researching the purchase of their next electrical appliance, they think nothing of rushing out to buy livestock or horses which they know nothing about, simply because they want that ‘lifestyle’, he says.

“For example, I had gone to investigate complaints about people keeping sheep, who have no idea their animals require shearing.

“For farm animals, as with every animal, the RSPCA message is a simple one: do your research first and make sure you have the time, space, energy and commitment before taking them on.”

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