RWAF Capone Campaign success – back yard breeders beware!

Possibly the biggest threat to rabbit welfare right now is the huge upsurge in unlicensed breeders appearing on classified ads on the internet. These breeders are not subject to any regulations, legislation or welfare checks and they provide no care advice to their customers.

To start to tackle this problem, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF), with support from Pets Corner, launched the Capone Campaign.

Using bespoke software,we have been able to analyse thousands of ‘rabbit for sale’ adverts to identify unlicensed pet retailers and their Welfare Officer provides evidence to the relevant local authority.

By reporting traders in this way we aim to

  1. Identify unlicensed sellers where welfare standards are potentially poor
  2. Make local authorities aware of the problems that unlicensed sellers cause
  3. Make it more difficult for these sellers to operate so that it is less appealing and less rewarding
  4. Uncover poor welfare standards that can then be reported to the RSPCA and action taken
  5. Make a log of responses and actions taken, or lack of amongst local authorities
  6. Gather information to build a sound basis for lobbying for better welfare or resources in local authorities

A number of online sellers have been licensed by their local authorities so far as a direct result of the campaign. This is the first time this has happened in England and is hugely encouraging. The retailers will now be inspected annually and will have to follow set conditions that should improve welfare. It will also be a warning to other back yard breeders.

The RWAF hope these examples will set a precedent for local authorities to interpret the act in a way that reflects what is happening in today’s society. Where this doesn’t happen, we are keen to enter a dialogue with DEFRA to tighten the guidelines. We are eager for a change in the law to help regulate and control online sellers of pets but until then they will continue to work with the tools we do have. If more sellers can be uncovered and licensed it all helps in the battle for positive animal welfare.

Why Capone?

Apart from it being cute to have pictures Bugsy Malone Bunnies, there is a point to the name of the campaign. Al Capone, as many may already know, was caught, not for his obvious criminal activities, but for tax evasion. We are aware that the law is not always in our favour in terms of protecting rabbits in poor welfare situations so we, like those on the trail of Al Capone, need to work every angle to make it as difficult as possible for these ‘backyard breeders’ to operate and use whichever parts of the law we can to get results.