The 5 freedoms | 5 needs | 5 domains

The 5 freedoms | 5 needs | 5 domains

The 5 freedoms are probably the most common measurement of animal welfare. They outline the basic duty of care for animals and are protected by EU law under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. In this piece of legislation, the freedoms were updated to The Five Needs as follows:

1. To have a suitable environment  

2. To have a suitable diet  

3. To be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns  

4. To be housed with or apart from other animals  

5. To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.   

In 2019, PDSA reported that 1.3 million dogs in the UK are not walked every day, and 56% of cat owners do not know the weight or body condition of their cats. We need to bring light to these issues to improve the welfare of our nation's pets. The 2014 PSDA wellbeing report highlighted that pet owner's awareness of the Animal Welfare Act had declined to just 38% since 2011. Many would argue that pet owners would abide by the 5 needs regardless, however I believe that highlighting this issue could help animal owners take a more active approach in ensuring they prioritise good welfare standards. 


While the statements of the 5 Needs may lend themselves to some ambiguity, these principles and their applications should be common knowledge to any animal enthusiast. Just remember that it takes more than simply following the 5 needs to be a good pet owner. Here we see a heavy focus on physical wellbeing, but in addition we must not forget the mental wellbeing of animals too.   

Thankfully, the 5 needs have been further developed to consider mental states and are referred to as the 5 domains. Yes, 3 updates later and we are still learning more about how best to care for our animals! Although the concept of the 5 domains has existed for a couple of decades, it is continually improving. The graphic below illustrates the newest welfare school of thought, and should be considered with the impact of human-animal interactions. Notice how a ‘suitable diet’ is now referred to as ‘nutrition’ - these updates encourage animal carers to consider more than baseline needs, and instead educate themselves on how to provide the most positive welfare for each individuals

Mellor, D.J.; Beausoleil, N.J.; Littlewood, K.E.; McLean, A.N.; McGreevy, P.D.; Jones, B.; Wilkins, C. The 2020 Five Domains Model: Including Human–Animal Interactions in Assessments of Animal Welfare. Animals 2020, 10, 1870. 

We will continue to revisit the 5 Freedoms | 5 needs | 5 domains in future blogs. Keep an eye out to see how we apply these principles in all Pet Parent life!