Wales has become the first country in the UK to publish guidance to people who own and care for horses, donkeys and pets.

The guide has been published as cases of animal cruelty and abandonment continue to rise, which suggests that not all prospective pet owners consider carefully the responsibilities associated with looking after an animal.

RSPCA figures show that cruelty investigations rose from 105,000 in 2003 to just below 140,000 in 2007 in Wales and England.

The codes of practice for dogs, cats and equines (which includes horses and donkeys) have all-party support at the Welsh Assembly and have been produced following extensive consultation and are welcomed by animal welfare groups.

The guides offer practical advice for people who own, or are thinking of getting a horse or pet.

Launching the codes at Greenmeadow Community Farm, Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said: “There may be people who will wonder why guidance is needed on the welfare of pet animals.

“The sad truth is that while many people will care for their pet and provide them with a safe home for their lifetime, far too many animals are subjected to cruel treatment and are abandoned.

“Cruelty figures continue to rise and we only have to look at reports in the media to see that this is a very real issue. Local authorities also face costs by pursuing cruelty cases through the courts, funding which could be used for other things.

“Taking on a pet is a big responsibility. There are costs involved, such as feeding and vet fees, as well as the time that is needed to look after them properly. These guides set out what is expected if someone is considering having a pet.

“Christmas is a time when some parents may feel pressurised to buy a pet for their children without perhaps realising the financial and long-term commitment of this decision.

“I would urge anyone thinking of having a pet to check these guides and see if they can, in all honesty, provide the care that is needed for the animal.”

Chief veterinary officer Dr Christianne Glossop said people need to realise that keeping a pet is a privilege, not a right.

She added: “They need a great deal of care and it is the case that not everyone realises that a commitment is needed when taking on a pet. These guides aim to be a definitive explanation of what you need to consider before having a pet.”

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, said: “World Horse Welfare welcomes the Welsh Assembly’s new code of practice for the welfare of equines. The code is a critical element of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, as it sets a baseline for meeting the needs of all horses.

“It provides helpful advice for existing and potential horse owners, as well as greatly assisting the authorities should problems arise.

“It is encouraging that Wales has taken the initiative in developing this code, which I hope will be a valuable tool in protecting the welfare of horses.”

The new equine codes have been prepared under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 for an industry which is worth between £300million and £400million in Wales.

Farm animals are already subject to codes of practice.

Guiding lights: Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales Dr Christianne Glossop and Lizzie Ellis from the Donkey Sanctuary, launch the new guide with Woody the donkey.