Extreme winter weather

With amber and red weather warnings for the severe weather in most of the country we are asking people to act quickly to protect their outdoor pet rabbits.

Pictured this morning in Edinburgh

Our normal winter advice doesn’t cover these extreme conditions so we would ask owners to bring their rabbits into unused garages or sheds. Or if that is not possible then bring them indoors. But please be aware that if you are bringing them into the house, keep the room unheated. Rabbits are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature so if you put them in a room that is heated, it will be dangerous to put them outside in the cold again.

If you can’t bring them into a garage, shed or into the house then follow our winter advice, but multiply it by 10.

Rabbits really do suffer in these conditions – in the wild they’ll stay underground in large groups sharing body warmth. Pet rabbits rarely have that luxury. Keep them warm and dry, keep them safe.

Media Star! Members competition

RWAF Members

Do you and your rabbits want to become RWAF Social Media stars?  We are looking for members to profile in our new Social Media campaign which will run in February on both Facebook and Instagram.  Not only could you and your buns be featured, but there are some excellent prizes too (see later)!  All you need to do is submit one (or more) photo(s) of your rabbit and a separate photo of yourself and finish the following using between 250-300 words “ I am a member of the RWAF because…”    The RWAF Directors will select between 10-15 responses to use in the campaign.  Those selected to be profiled will receive a 10% off voucher for the RWAF shop https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/. And there’s more…once the campaign has run, the profile which receives the most likes/loves and shares will win this beautiful and unique rabbit memo board with stylus, specially made for us by Rosemary MacDonald.  The image is burnt into the wood and then lightly varnished

Deadline for entry is:   31st January 2018

How to enter in three easy steps:

Select one or more photos featuring you and separately, one or more of  your rabbit(s)

Finish the following  “ I am a member of the RWAF because…”    using between 250-300 words

Submit your photos along with your membership details and sentence here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/about-the-rwaf/photo-submissions/

Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing all your fabulous photos!

 

Capone Campaign Annual Report 2017

Introduction

The Capone Campaign is run by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, with funds provided by the Pet Trade. The campaign is designed to identify “rogue” rabbit breeders, who use Internet Sales Platforms (such as Ebay, Gumtree, Facebook, Shpock etc) as well as Pet Fairs and Boot Fairs, to sell on rabbits, often with no welfare considerations for the animals, no health checks or inoculations and no Local Authority licensing in place for running a pet sales business .

The Campaign relies on software provided by Hindesight, which maintains regular surveillance on sales sites looking for key words, and is then able to identify rabbit breeding and sales across the various platforms, linking common phone numbers, user names and email addresses, to minimise the ability of these “rogue” traders to hide behind multiple anonymised identities. The RWAF also relies upon information provided by concerned members of the public about the welfare of rabbits in trade, and proactive research and investigation by their dedicated Animal Welfare Officer / Investigator.

A post has been funded by the Campaign since late 2015, working 8 hours per week and tasked with a duty to carry out proactive and reactive investigations, based upon data provided by Hindesight and other sources. In May 2017 a new officer was retained by the RWAF, and the Campaign was able to continue with its mission to identify “rogue” traders and use every avenue available to it to minimise the impact of their activities. This includes referral to Local Authority Licensing Teams regarding failure to license pet sales businesses, the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit, RSPCA Intelligence Team and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The new officer brings with him over 25 years’ experience of investigation and enforcement work, coming from service with the Police as a Wildlife Crime Officer and Team leader of proactive intelligence teams, as well as from leading intelligence and investigation teams in a variety of Local Authority and Government agencies including Trading Standards and the Financial Conduct Authority.

2017 –
A timeline

May 2017 –
The new officer was recruited and commenced duties on or about 28/05/2017.

June 2017 –
Investigations started in earnest, the first enquiry stemmed from information supplied by the RWAF Senior Management regarding the activities of a former glamour model, who had taken to breeding and selling giant rabbits, online. Her business now has a global reach, and it was she was the breeder who sent the giant rabbit to America, which later died in transit aboard a United Airlines flight, attracting considerable negative feedback in the press against both United and the breeder. Investigations traced this breeder to their home address, and linked them in to a “pedigree” puppy breeding business.

They were referred to the Local Authority regarding the operation of an unlicensed pet sales business, and HMRC’s Tax Evasion Unit in London.

June also saw a wholesale review of how we “did” intelligence work, and the new officer revamped referral forms and processes to bring them in to line with the National Intelligence Model (NIM), this included the creation of a bespoke 5x5x5 Intelligence Document, a S9 Witness Statement, an intelligence / enforcement referral document as well as the start of research regarding sourcing a Criminal Justice secure email address and Data Protection Registration.

Ongoing long-term project work was also started in June, this involved the identification of traders using Gumtree and Pets4Homes with multiple identities and believed to be operating in the south east of England and further afield.

July 2017 –
Work started on two Kent-based prolific traders, one dealing in rabbits and wallabies and the second ostensibly based on the Island of Sheerness. The major concern with the Sheerness trader is the well known presence of RHVD2, rendering the uncontrolled sale of pet rabbits from that location suspect and highly irresponsible.

Work also started on the creation of a “database” of online traders, starting with those in SE England and London, and intended to develop across the UK as time allowed. In tandem with this was the creation of a database of licensed sites, sourced from Open Source Local Authority Information and Freedom of Information requests.

August 2017 –
August saw the commencement of our a long-term enquiry to identify one of the most prolific “rogue” traders on the internet based in Halifax, who appear to be linked to organised Traveller crime in that area. This enquiry is ongoing, and initial referrals have already been made to the NWCU and RSPCA as well as enquiries with the relevant Local Authorities.

Other work in August related to the establishment of our secure CJSM (Criminal Justice) email address, which allows us to make contact with the Police and other enforcement bodies in a secure fashion, thus allowing for a free passage of intelligence information, and registration of THE RWAF with the Information Commissioner for Data Protection purposes, which allows us to handle certain sensitive data.

September 2017 –
September saw enquiries commenced in to the activities of traders in Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Wiltshire. An urgent referral was forwarded to the AWO regarding a female breeder operating on Facebook, who appeared to be selling rabbits via that platform despite having had RHVD2 diagnosed in her animals. An urgent intelligence referral was made to Wiltshire Trading Standards and the RSPCA, once the breeder’s last known address had been identified.

October 2017 –
Work began on investigations in to the activities of a Leeds based trader, who has been identified as a prolific breeder and advertiser and a further Kent-based trader, who again is a prolific advertiser and sells using her own website.

October also saw work begin on a project identifying vendors of rabbit hutches, both online and in shops, offering products claiming to be authorised and recommended by the RWAF. To date two traders have been referred to local Trading Standards teams and the Advertising Standards Authority for making misleading claims in their advertising.

November 2017 –
Work continued regarding online and physical sellers around the South East, this included investigations regarding an urgent RWAF Management referral, following complaints about a breeder, who had been seen selling rabbits at a Pet Fair in the Thames Valley area, and keeping them in atrocious conditions. This seller was traced to Kent, where they run a Rare Breeds Centre from a Farm, the animals there are also being kept in suspect conditions.

This trader had claimed to the organisers of the Pet Fair that she held a Pet Shop Licence, this has however been shown to be a false claim. A full referral has been made to her local authority, HMRC and the RSPCA. In addition to this workstream, a further enquiry has arisen from Open Source monitoring of the Facebook Rabbit Sales account, leading to a woman in Herne Bay, Kent who is running a rabbit breeding, sales and accessories website from her home address. This individual has been referred to her local authority, Canterbury City Council and to HMRC.

December 2017 –
Following a complaint from a member of the public regarding an online seller (using Gumtree), an individual based in Wood Green, an investigation has been launched to identify and refer the individual as a matter of urgency. In his sales photos he can be seen mistreating one of his rabbits, holding it vertically by the ears, and the conditions in which it and other rabbits are depicted fall well short of basic Animal Welfare Standards.

Enquiries have linked this individual to the sale of Chickens as well as rabbits via a second online sales platform, once again the conditions depicted are atrocious and urgent action is needed to intervene from an animal welfare standpoint. As such this is the officer’s priority investigation for December, although initial intelligence regarding his believed location and phone number(s) has already been passed to the RSPCA and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

December has also seen the start of a work-stream to identify Romanian online traders, who are believed to be involved in the sale of pet rabbit breeds for food, an issue that has been mooted via social media for a few months, and appears to have become an issue to fuel the demand for rabbit meat amongst the Roma Gypsy community in the UK.

In addition December has also seen the identified trader records moving north and west from the South East where resources have been concentrated for the first six months of the AWO’s tenure with the RWAF.

Conclusion –
This report covers the period 28/05/2017 to 31/12/2017, which spans the current tenure of the Animal Welfare Officer / Investigator employed by the RWAF as part of the Capone Campaign.

The Campaign funds the officer for 8 hours per week, and this has meant that prioritisation of workloads has been a major factor of the latter half of 2017’s activities. The RWAF’s intelligence and investigation capability has had to be reviewed, and updated, making the function suitable to operate alongside and integrate with the intelligence and investigation functions of other Animal Welfare charities and enforcement agencies; hence we now have Data Protection Registration, CJSM Secure Emails, and utilise National Intelligence Model referral forms, Magistrates’ Court Act compliant statements and the like.

In addition to this ongoing work, investigations have been instigated, in particular with regard to “urgent” cases, raised either by concerned members of the public / RWAF Management, or through issues being identified by the AWO. Six of these have been completed and referred to the appropriate local authorities, and nine intelligence referral packs have been passed to other enforcement / animal welfare agencies.

In addition to this, the AWO has also fielded enquiries relating to ongoing animal welfare issues, and provided input to government animal welfare legislation consultations.

It is anticipated, now that the lion’s share of the overhaul of the administration of the function has been completed, that 2018 will see an exponential increase in investigation and intelligence work generated by the AWO.

Bunnies of the Year Competition 2017

(Open only to current members of the RWAF)

Our annual Bunny of the Year competition has been running for several years and last year we changed this to the ‘Bunnies of the Year competition’ to reflect the RWAFs belief that rabbits should only be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups. As such only photos of two or more rabbits can be entered into this competition.

This year’s competition has 4 categories:
· Youngsters – 2 or more rabbits under 4 years old
· Older bunnies – 2 or more rabbits over 4 years of age
· Rescue bunnies – 2 or more rescue bunnies together. (You may also send a max of 100 words about each rabbit and their history)
· Happy bunnies – 2 or more bunnies binkying, playing, digging, snuggling, grooming each other etc.
Prizes are being awarded from 1st – 3rd in each category, and will consist of:

Youngsters category

1st place: They will receive a deluxe connection kit worth nearly £200 (donated by Runaround) 1 x 2kg Excel Junior Rabbit Nuggets, 1 x Long Stem Feeding Hay, 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet Foods), a Binky Trio (binky bell, boredom ball and treat bag – donated by The Binky Shop), and a Pet Remedy Atomiser (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
2nd place: 1 x 2kg Excel Junior nuggets (donated by Burgess Pet Care), a Happy Bunny Club box (donated by The Happy Bunny Club), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a refillable Pet Remedy mini spray and a carton of 12 individual calming Pet Remedy wipes (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
3rd place: 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 x 1.1kg Oxbow Orchard Grass Hay (donated by Petlife International), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), and a refillable Pet Remedy mini spray (donated by Unex Design Ltd).

Older bunnies category:

1st place: 1 x 2kg Excel Mature Rabbit Nuggets, 1 x Long Stem Feeding Hay, 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a selection of Runaround goodies to include T-shirt, coasters and keyrings (donated by Runaround), a medium natural Binky table (donated by The Binky Shop), and a Pet Remedy Plug Diffuser pack (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
2nd place: 1 x 2kg Excel Mature rabbit nuggets (donated by Burgess Pet Care), a Happy Bunny Club box (donated by The Happy Bunny Club), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a refillable Pet Remedy mini spray and a carton of 12 individual calming Pet Remedy wipes (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
3rd place: 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 x 425g Oxbow Oat Hay (donated by Petlife International), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a refillable Pet Remedy mini spray and a carton of 12 individual calming Pet Remedy wipes (donated by Unex Design Ltd).

Rescue bunnies category:
1st place:  1 x 1.5kg Excel Natures Blend Nuggets, 1 x Long Stem Feeding Hay, 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), a wooden rabbit hideout (donated by Hop Inn), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a Binky Trio (binky bell, boredom ball and treat bag – donated by The Binky Shop), a selection of Runaround goodies to include T-shirt, coasters and keyrings (donated by Runaround), and a 200ml Pet Remedy calming spray (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
2rd place: 1 x 1.5kg Excel Natures Blend nuggets (donated by Burgess Pet Care), a Happy Bunny Club box (donated by The Happy Bunny Club), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a refillable Pet Remedy mini spray and a carton of 12 individual calming Pet Remedy wipes (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
3rd place: 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 x Oxbow Baked peppermint Treats (donated by Petlife International), 1 year’s supply of Selective Naturals Grain Free Rabbit Food (for one rabbit, based on feeding guidelines – donated by Supreme Pet foods), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), and a refillable Pet Remedy mini spray (donated by Unex Design Ltd).

Happy bunnies category:

1st place  1 x 1.5kg Excel Natures Blend Nuggets, 1 x Long Stem Feeding Hay, 1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods), a selection of Runaround goodies to include T-shirt, coasters and keyrings (donated by Runaround), a medium natural Binky table (donated by The Binky Shop), and a carton of 12 individual calming Pet Remedy wipes (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
2nd place:  1 x 1.5kg Excel Natures Blend Nuggets (donated by Burgess Pet Care), a Happy Bunny Club box (donated by The Happy Bunny Club), 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods) and a carton of 12 individual calming Pet Remedy wipes (donated by Unex Design Ltd).
3rd place:  1 x Mountain Meadow Herbs, 1 x Country Garden Herbs, 1 x Apple Snacks and 1 x Gnaw Sticks (donated by Burgess Pet Care), 1 year’s supply of Science Selective (for one rabbit, based on feeding guidelines – donated by Supreme Pet foods) and 1 x 400g hand-packed Selective Timothy Hay (donated by Supreme Pet foods).

Not only could you win some amazing prizes, but your rabbits could be crowned ‘Bunnies of the Year 2017’, and may feature on the cover of the Spring 2018 Rabbiting On.
To raise vital funds for the important work that the RWAF does, there is a small entry fee of £2 per photograph entered. You can enter as many photos as you like.

Photos can be entered as prints of digital images (preferably saved on a CD). Please set your camera to the maximum image quality to ensure that the resulting file is large and detailed enough to be reproduced in Rabbiting On. Save the digital photos at 300dpi, and at least postcard size. Make sure that your name, address, RWAF membership number and the rabbit’s names are on the CD.
If you send prints please stick a label on the back of each photo listing the information above.

Send your photos/CDs and entry fees to:

Bunnies of the Year 2017,
RWAF,
Enigma House,
Culmhead Business Park,
Taunton,
Somerset,
TA3 7DY

Please make cheques payable to: The Rabbit Welfare Fund.
Regrettably we are unable to return photos or CDs, so please do not send your only copies.

You can also enter your photos by emailing them. Firstly please ensure you visit
https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product/bunnies-of-the-year-competition/ to pay the entry fee for each of your photos, then visit https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/about-the-rwaf/photo-submissions/ to upload your photos. You must include your name, address, RWAF membership number, the rabbits’ names, category entered and the payment transaction number the shop will generate when you pay for the entries.

The closing date for entries is the 30th December 2017 and the winners will be announced in the Spring 2018 Rabbiting On.

All of the photos entered that aren’t fortunate enough to be amongst the winners will be considered for our Pawprints, It’s my Bunny and Star Bunny pages in future issues of Rabbiting On. They may also be used to illustrate features in Rabbiting On, used RWAF literature and may even be a future Rabbiting On front cover star.

We would like to extend our thanks to the companies who have generously donated prizes for this competition.
Prizes will be posted out from the companies direct to the winners and can only be posted to UK postal addresses.
The RWAF and prize donators reserve the right to offer substitute prizes without prior notice.

PASSIVE SMOKING IN THE RABBIT

By Richard Saunders, RWAF Veterinary Adviser

(First published in Rabbiting On Magazine, Winter 2014)

Photo: C Burley

The dangers of passive smoking are now well understood in humans. And those dangers are worst of all in those who cannot evade it. And whilst smoking in enclosed public spaces is now illegal, smoking in the home still occurs, and children continue to be exposed to it. The same threat exists to our pets, including rabbits, if they share that airspace.

Only 15% of cigarette smoke is actually inhaled by the smoker

Exposure to smoke

When owners smoke, they expose their pets to over 4,000 different toxins including 40 known cancer-causing substances and carbon monoxide. Only 15% of cigarette smoke is actually inhaled by the smoker – the rest ends up in the air exposing people and pets to the dangers of passive smoking. Obviously, pets, including houserabbits, inhale the toxic air. However, they potentially absorb dangerous chemicals through the mouth and gut when they groom themselves because the toxins land on their fur.

There are three main risk issues:

  • Irritation to the airways (and damage to the mechanisms that protect the airways from other problems)
  • Cancers
  • Effects on the heart.

To these we can also add the potential for skin, mouth or gut irritation from residues collecting on the coat. In addition, I am always asked about inhaled allergens in rabbits, and the idea of ‘hay fever’ or asthma occurring, and this article is a good point to discuss it.

Airway effects

Houserabbits with little or no access to fresh air are likely to be at greater risk from effects on the airways and lungs, and associated illness through passive smoking, than outdoor rabbits. This is simply because of limited fresh air. The potent mix of irritant and toxic chemicals in inhaled air full of cigarette smoke can irritate and inflame any part of the respiratory tract from the nose to the furthermost point in the lungs (the alveoli, where oxygen is taken up into the bloodstream). At the nose end, this may cause upsetting but not life-threatening sneezing. At the alveoli end it may seriously affect the rabbit’s ability to take up oxygen and get rid of waste carbon dioxide. And in the middle, it can irritate the airways. This can cause severe difficulty breathing, and can, by damaging the lining of the airways, impair the rabbit’s natural defences against infection. Given the high incidence of bacterial infection in rabbit respiratory tracts, they need all their defences intact!

Photo: R Lamb

 

Houserabbits with little or no access to fresh air are likely to be at greater risk from effects on the airways

Secondary Pasteurella or other bacteria may cause pneumonia or other bacterial infections. Similar problems occur in hutch rabbits due to irritation to the airways from dusty or resinous bedding and ammonia from their urine. The tiny hairs that help waft mucus and foreign material up and out of the lungs can be killed by tobacco smoke and ammonia. The mucus layer which exists to protect the airways can become thick, less easily moved out, and prone to accumulating, affecting oxygen uptake. These effects are due to the other chemicals present in cigarettes, not the nicotine, and therefore should not be an issue with e-cigarettes. However, the latter often have assorted flavourings and scents present, and those may be potentially irritant. Similar problems may potentially occur with air fresheners, incense, or other environmental contamination. It’s probably worth mentioning that birds are exquisitely sensitive to inhaled chemicals (hence canaries in the coal mine!), and can die rapidly from exposure to a number of household chemicals. Rabbits are not as potentially sensitive to such things.

Effects on the heart and arteries

Photo: S Brough

 

Smokers need to be made aware that passive smoking is as dangerous to pets as it is to people

One paper (Torok et al, 2000) showed that passive smoking affected the ability of rabbit arteries to relax, which, particularly in conjunction with thickening of arteries, could be fatal. Rabbits with kidney failure may develop stiff, thickened arteries as a result of calcium being laid down in their walls, and the extra effects of the smoke could tip them over the edge. This effect is mainly due to nicotine, as opposed to the assorted other chemicals present, and is therefore an issue in the use of e-cigarettes.

Cancers

Studies have been carried out in America on birds, dogs and cats where it was found that all three are susceptible to cancers. Rod Straw, a pet oncology (cancer) expert from the University of Queensland, said an earlier study had found that passive smoking could be linked to lung cancer in dogs. “It is interesting that they have found this link and it could be a good impetus for people not to smoke,” he said. Although no specific work has been carried out on rabbits (other than as a laboratory model) passive smoking has been proved to affect birds, dogs and cats and there is no reason why houserabbits should not also suffer the consequences of their owners’ habits. The generally greater life expectancy of large parrots, cats, and some dogs means that rabbits are perhaps at less risk of this, and the main cause of lung cancers in rabbits is the secondary spread from uterine tumours in unneutered females.

Photo: J O’Callaghan

 

Some rabbits struggle to eat hay due to dental issues, but all rabbits should have ample good quality hay at all times

E-cigarettes

As Judith Brown said on behalf of the RWAF in 2006, “Smokers need to be made aware that passive smoking is as dangerous to pets as it is to people. By not exposing rabbits to the dangers of passive smoking, owners can insure that they keep vets bills down. Not to mention that it makes for a happier rabbit.” Whilst I can’t better that comment, there is one additional subject that has arisen since 2006, and that is “vaping” or e-cigarettes. Whilst these are possibly better than cigarettes for human health, and their ‘cleaner’ content means that many harmful chemicals are absent from e-cigarettes, they still contain nicotine, which has effects on the heart. In addition, one e-cigarette unit contains the equivalent amount of nicotine to more than a whole packet of traditional cigarettes. This is only a problem if an inquisitive rabbit decides to chew one and ingest some of the liquid, but it would be VERY wise to keep them out of the range of rabbits, as there have been deaths in dogs from this situation.

Allergies

Whilst on the general topic of respiratory health, we vets often get queries about the possibility of a rabbit having allergic respiratory tract disease: ‘hay fever’ or asthma, for example. This is not impossible, of course, and we see the occasional lower respiratory allergic disease, similar to human or other animal ‘asthma’. Upper respiratory allergic disease appears extremely unusual indeed, and it is far more likely that any problem with nasal discharge or sneezing is due to infection in the nasal cavity/sinuses (although there is some debate about the exact anatomical distinctions here). ‘Hay fever’ is such an unfortunate term, as it can lead to rabbits being inappropriately deprived of hay in the belief that they may react to it badly. Whilst there are some rabbits who struggle to eat hay due to dental issues, there is no other justification for not providing ample, good quality hay at all times. Any problems with hay and the respiratory tract are more likely to be due to moulds and dust present in poor quality hays than to allergies.

Reference:

Physiol Res. 2000;49(1):135-41.
Passive smoking impairs endothelium-dependent relaxation of isolated rabbit arteries.
Török J,Gvozdjáková A, Kucharská J, Balazovjech I, Kyselá S, Simko F, Gvozdják J.

 

Introducing a new rabbit after an outbreak of RVHD2

“How long should I leave it before introducing a new rabbit after an outbreak of RHD2”

We are getting asked this question, or a variation of it very regularly. This is a really difficult question to answer, for several reasons.

The science:

Firstly, the virus is incredibly resilient in the environment, at least in ideal experimental conditions eg in organ suspensions held at 4C, where it can survive for greater than 7 months. In less artificial conditions eg cool, not dry, protected from UV light, and in/on organic material, eg carcasses, it has been shown to survive for at least 3 months (as the experiment stopped at that point, it could survive for longer than this). Less optimal conditions, where the virus is cooled but kept dry, give survival times of less than one month.

Another study showed excretion of virus for 2 months in rabbits which recovered from the virus.

As a result, quarantine periods of between a month and 7 months have commonly been suggested before exposing a new rabbit to previously infected or in contact rabbits, or environments where the virus has been shed, and it is difficult to propose a one size fits all exact period of time to guarantee biosecurity without suggesting a potentially significantly excessive duration.

In practice:

We would suggest at least 2 months before bringing a rabbit into contact with the survivors of an outbreak.

We would suggest thorough cleaning and disinfection of any non-porous inanimate objects or surfaces in contact with infected animals, and either disposal of or cleaning following soaking in disinfectant for porous objects. Cleaning of cracks and corners of hutches etc is vital. Anigene and Virkon are both considered suitable for this type of cleaning, but make sure you follow their instructions.

Grass and earth are difficult to disinfect, but exposure to high temperatures and UV light in sunlight should inactivate it within approximately a month (although particular care should be taken if there are microclimates of moist cool conditions with organic material present: faeces, food, hay etc should be removed to allow exposure of the surfaces).

A period of at least 3 months is probably sufficient to eliminate the virus in bodies or protected suitable organic material (eg parts of bodies) in all but experimentally perfect conditions, and so a widely used period of 4 months is understandable.

However, this needs to be balanced against the welfare issues of sole or unsuitably housed rabbits, and the risk can be reduced (although never to zero, as no vaccine is 100% protective) by vaccination with a suitable RHD2 vaccine.

Summary:

It is impossible to give a reply that is suitable for everyone and you should discuss your own situation with your vet. However, our general advice is:
Make sure all rabbits are vaccinated against RVHD2

Thorughly clean the area

Wait at least 2 months before introducing another (vaccinated) rabbit