CAWF Cymru winners 2016As the cost of living crisis continues to bite for the nation’s pet owners, the RSPCA is inviting applications for an awards scheme recognising those public bodies going above and beyond to help.

The RSPCA PawPrints scheme recognises local authorities, housing providers and other public bodies who deliver higher animal welfare standards – celebrating “sometimes underappreciated”  services that often offer a lifeline for animals and their owners.

Awards are split into five categories – stray dog services, housing, contingency planning, animal activity licensing, and kenneling; and recognise bodies delivering services beyond statutory minimums.

The scheme – first established in 2008 – is now entering its 15th year.

Last year, 73 awards were issued to 54 organisations – including 62 accolades handed out in England, and 11 in Wales.

The launch of the scheme comes as the RSPCA‘s new Animal Kindness Index suggests nearly one in five pet owners (19%) are worried about feeding their pets, amid the cost of living crunch.

Criteria for the gold PawPrints awards include proactive work to encourage responsible pet ownership, discounted microchips for pets in the social housing sector and partnerships with local animal welfare charities – all steps likely to be crucial in helping pet owners through the cost of living crisis.

Awards also focus on preparedness for crisis situations – such as local flooding emergencies – and the welfare standards at kennelling facilities used by local authorities when boarding dogs.

The application window is open until 19 August 2022 – with bronze, silver or gold awards given to public bodies depending on their levels of service provision. Council officers and other public sector staff can apply for an award online.

Lee Gingell, RSPCA public affairs manager for local government, said: “These are tough times for humans and animals alike – but many public bodies are doing huge amounts to help, and we want to celebrate that.

“The RSPCA is delighted to again launch our prestigious PawPrints awards, which showcase the amazing work local authorities, housing providers and other public bodies do for animal welfare in their communities.

“Too often, these services are sometimes underappreciated. But these services are likely to offer a lifeline to people and pets; and in these tough times, the prioritisation of welfare is more important than ever.

“From stray dog services, to contingency planning, to ensuring the social housing sector supports owners, we can’t wait to help public bodies once again prove to their users that they care about animals, and have the services to match.

“The public are hugely passionate about animal welfare – and we know they want to see public bodies that represent them taking action for pets. Applying for a PawPrint is an amazing way to do that, and we urge public bodies across England and Wales to get involved.”

Special awards have also been announced for innovative projects promoting animal welfare, and a ‘special recognition’ accolade for a particular person going beyond the call of duty for animals.

More information on the scheme is available online.