Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Rabbits kept in shocking conditions
From the Salisbury Journal, first published Saturday 19th Jan 2008.
SEVENTY per cent of rabbits of more than 300 surveyed rabbits seen by the RSPCA in the South and South West between May and November last year spent 24 hours a day kept in a hutch with no access to a run. The society has revealed the shocking results of a survey into the quality of life of the animals to coincide with National Rabbit Week and is urging people to think it through before they commit themselves to caring for what is not the easiest of pets to look after.
RSPCA regional manager, Jonathan Silk, said: "This survey, now in its third year, gives us a very disturbing insight into how many of these animals have a poor quality of life and how often people acquire them as pets only to quickly lose interest.
"For the last two years we have discovered that the average amount of time that a rabbit was owned before being unwanted was as little as three months. Rabbits are becoming throwaway pets, bought for as little as £10, given very little quality of life and wanted for a very short period of time." As well as details provided by RSPCA workers in the region, anonymous rabbit awareness questionnaires' were completed by members of the public.
Anyone who owned a rabbit which was the subject of a cruelty or neglect complaint, or a rabbit they wanted the society to rehome, was also asked to complete a questionnaire.
Rabbits are sociable animals and should ideally be neutered and kept in pairs or groups.They need to be fed on hay and grass as well as pellets so that their teeth are kept ground down and healthy. They also need a roomy rest area and an enclosure, for daily exercise, with fencing sunk into the ground to prevent them from burrowing out. They are suitable for keeping indoors and can be housetrained.
RSPCA Regional Superintendent John Tresidder: "Sadly, many rabbits are kept in unsuitable back yard hutches out of sight where they all too easily become forgotten pets. As a result they lead a miserable life on their own at the bottom of the garden after the novelty of keeping them wears off.
"While there are many caring and responsible rabbit owners in the region, there are too many people who do not understand the time, space, commitment and money required to provide proper care. Since the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, people have a duty to ensure their animal's needs are met."
In a bid to improve the quality of bunnies lives and encourage would-be owners to ensure they are informed, the RSPCA has produced a new leaflet to accompany the campaign, entitled A Life Worth Rabbiting About'. These are available from local RSPCA branches or animal centres.
Mr Tresidder said: "It is extremely worrying to hear that over half those buying a rabbit received no advice on how to care for it. We have had numerous incidents where people have bought rabbits from pet shops which have been wrongly sexed. In many cases the shops offer no help and even put up signs saying they will not be held responsible for sexing the animals they sell - and then the RSPCA is left to pick up the pieces." As part of the campaign, the RSPCA is also urging responsible people who genuinely want to care for a rabbit for its life to consider adopting one from a rehoming centre.
Of the 323 surveyed rabbits seen by the RSPCA in the South and South West region between May and November 2007:
1. 88% had no company and were kept in solitary confinement.
2. 70% did not have access to a run and spent 24 hours a day locked in a hutch.
3. 55% did not have an adequate hutch.
4. 50% did not have clean bedding.
5. 42% of hutches were in full sunlight without adequate shade.
6. 45% did not have any water available.
7. 30% did not have any food available.
The survey also highlighted that:
1. 57% of owners who bought their rabbit from a shop or garden centre said they received no advice or literature on how to care for it.
2. 42% of rabbits were taken on as pets for children.
3. 32% of rabbits were living in old, often unsuitable hutches, which came free from their friend or neighbour.
4. 11% of rabbits were the result of unwanted or unplanned breeding.
Comment: In 2004 the RSPCA reported that 4.6% of UK households owned a rabbit and that roughly 35,000 are abandoned annually. The lack of consideration and care of rabbits as valued members of society is worldwide and for all of us advocating and acting on their behalf, itís an everyday challenge to raise their profile. Help make a difference today! Here in BC, the Rabbit Advocacy Group is!