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Animal Welfare rabbits

Rabbits Endure Lifetime of Lockdown Warning

While many of us may have struggled with isolation during lockdown, sadly hundreds of thousands of rabbits face a lifetime of endless isolation and loneliness says leading veterinary charity PDSA.

The charity is raising awareness of the plight our cotton-tailed companions suffer during Rabbit Awareness Week (which started on 10 August) when animal charities and organisations come together in a bid to address the rabbit welfare crisis.

Despite being incredibly social animals, PDSA’s Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found that shockingly half (49%) of all UK rabbits live alone (equating to around 440,000 rabbits) and a quarter (25%, around 230,000 rabbits) are kept in inadequate housing conditions, such as cramped hutches.

PDSA Vet Lynne James said:  “Worryingly, PDSA’s Report also found that over a 24-hour period, rabbits spend an average of 11 hours inside their hutch. Sadly, one-in-ten (10%) rabbits don’t have a run, living their lives in a hutch, and a further one-in-ten (11%) rabbits don’t even have enough room in their runs to hop.

“During lockdown, many of us will have experienced feelings of isolation, boredom and loneliness. But while we can begin to ease out of lockdown into a new kind of normality, our PAW Report findings show the sad reality that thousands of rabbits will continue to face perpetual confinement, enduring inadequate spaces and a lack of companionship, which can cause immense suffering. Our research shows that 98% of rabbit owners said that their pet was loved, so it may be that most of the time owners are misunderstanding their pets’ needs as opposed to any intentional mistreatment.

“Rabbits are very social animals and need another cotton-tailed friend to be happy so it’s incredibly concerning that 65% of owners disagree that their rabbit is lonely. Rabbits should always be homed with one other carefully introduced bunny in a large enriching space. Whether they’re kept inside or outdoors, the more space you can give your rabbits, the better! Your rabbits’ homes should provide more than enough room for them to lie down, stretch out, stand on their back legs without their ears touching the top and should be long enough for them have a little sprint. It’s never too late to improve the quality of life for the nation’s rabbits – there is plenty of advice out there, including on PDSA’s website, or speak to your vet for guidance.”

During Rabbit Awareness Week, alongside other animal charities and welfare organisations, PDSA is urging owners to ensure their bunnies are happy and healthy by checking their five welfare needs are met; Environment, Companionship, Health, Diet and Behaviour. 

Since the start of lockdown in March, the RPSCA has taken 189 rabbits into its care.

Dr Jane Tyson, rabbit welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “Rabbits are often a very misunderstood pet which means they are arguably one of the most neglected pets in Britain. This is why this Rabbit Awareness Week, we are highlighting some of the common issues we see with rabbit welfare.

“We have seen a huge improvement in the welfare of rabbits over the last few years, and during lockdown when owners have had more time to spend with their pets. Many more owners are realising that rabbits need to be kept in pairs, they need a larger space than a hutch at the bottom of the garden, and they need natural food such as hay and grass to keep them healthy, but sadly, there is still some way to go for rabbits.”

The charity has compiled an essential checklist of the elements a rabbit needs to be content:

The RSPCA currently has more than 150 bunnies being cared for across its centres and branches. To rehome one of the many rescue rabbits in RSPCA care, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/findapet

Rehome rescue rabbits

Hamish is a 12-month-old bunny who was rescued from a home in Nuneaton with 180 other rabbits where he was sadly living in a hamster cage.

This white and grey lionhead rabbit is friendly and confident despite what he has been through. He has limited sight in one eye but doesn’t seem to let this affect him. He has also tested positive for EC (E cuniculi) a brain and kidney parasite and the staff can discuss this further with any potential adopter. He will need to be rehomed to an owner with a friendly female rabbit who is also EC positive.

He is available for rehoming from the RSPCA Walsall branch.

Plum and Pomegranate are a pair of cross breed bunnies who came into RSPCA in December last year as a litter of nine little bunnies.

Plum is the black one and Pomegranate is the black and white rabbit and they would like to be rehomed together.

The brothers are very curious boys but like a lot of bunnies, they are not keen on being picked up, instead they love lots of space to play and binky and plenty of toys to keep them occupied.

They are currently available for rehoming from the RSPCA Cheshire (Altrincham) branch.

Eccles is a three-month-old dwarf lop rabbit who was found in a box with another rabbit in Weaste in Salford. He is friendly, inquisitive and very good natured who also has a bit of a cheeky side, especially when treats are around. Eccles will need to be rehomed as a single house rabbit, as he is on the cusp of puberty. Once he can be neutered he would love to be introduced to a new friend to live with. 

Eccles is available for rehoming from the RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch.

For more information on rabbit care, visit PDSA’s website: www.pdsa.org.uk/rabbits

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