Please everybody share this poster and message in your emails and on social media, and on any rabbit or pet group you might be on.
Rabbits need vaccination every year to protect them against RVHD2 as well as against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. Unfortunately that can’t be given in one jab. There are two. For Myxi/RVHD1 they need the Nobivac combined jab and then for RVHD2 there is a choice of either Filavac or Eravac. There should be at least 2 weeks between the jabs.
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Animal Welfare Officer Update July 2018 to January 2019
Following on from the Spring 2018 decision by Pets Corner to finance the Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) initiative for another year, this has been a very busy six months.
Given the scale of the issue across the country, reactive work has come to the fore, with proactive work being logistically more problematic, unless issues are identified in areas local to the AWO’s home base.
This has been a busy period with a steady input of reactive work to keep me occupied, some from concerned RWAF members and staff and some from members of the public, but as ever the lion’s share of the raw data has come from the Hindesight net monitoring software, which provides me with details of prolific advertisers and breeders using an array of internet sales platforms. As with any investigation utilising raw data, many of these fall at the early stages, but some are capable of being developed in to actionable intelligence referrals for enforcement authorities.
I have also been involved in contributing to various UK Government consultations regarding animal welfare, and completed a useful course relating to animal viruses with a view to better understanding the risks posed by RVHD2 etc. in the rabbit breeding community.
In my last report I summarised enquiries relating to an individual based in London, who is known to the RWAF and other rabbit welfare groups for some pretty strange ideas about how to raise and care for rabbits. This individual has been using a website and PayPal to raise money using tactics and ‘borrowed’ slogans and phrases that might convince those prepared to donate that they were making a contribution to bona-fide rabbit charities, while this individual had been barred by the Charity Commission back in the early 2000s. The issue has worsened in the last few months and after further enquiries based on new intelligence, a full fraud crime complaint has been completed and passed the individual’s local Police Service via the Action Fraud route, for their action.
A number of breeders and online traders have been successfully referred to their local authorities and to the tax authorities in this period, as well as further work to identify a geographical pattern for breeders, based on stated and identified locations.
A particular case study in this period involved an individual identified in a small riverside town in Essex, who is breeding and trading on a massive scale from her home address. She uses Facebook and other platforms to advertise, and breeds and keeps her rabbits in a converted outbuilding at the rear of her terraced home. She has diversified from breeding and selling rabbits to also selling accessories ranging from feed to straw and toys. Having been identified and visited to confirm the information, it was clear that her set-up was both professional and sizeable, bringing in estimated revenues that would certainly put her on the radar of HMRC.
Sadly, when she was reported to the local authority they stated that they had visited her and since she was only selling rabbits bred from her own pets as a ‘hobby’, she was not covered by pet shop licensing legislation, and they therefore declined to take the matter any further.
As such, following the guidelines of the Capone Campaign she was referred to the Tax Authorities and it will be for her to indicate how her ‘hobby’ income impacts on what she declares on her tax returns.
I also identified an individual in rural Kent who claims to be a hobby breeder, yet has a massive web presence as a breeder and seller not only of rabbits but also hutches, food, toys and other rabbit accessories, on a scale that has led to her having to open her own premises on a trading estate to sell and display her stock.
This is clearly more than a hobby, and a matter that has been referred to the trader’s local authority regarding her lack of a pet shop licence as well as to HMRC regarding her income.
In August, I received anonymous intelligence that a premises near Peterborough was involved in breeding rabbits for online and pet shop sale, in atrocious conditions, many of which had died of disease and starvation, and were being placed on the market in a diseased state. The informant was very worried that they and their partner might be identifiable from the intelligence, since they were very close to the people involved. This fact led to them only providing skeletal intelligence of a building description and a rough village location, with one extra piece of information leading to a cul-de-sac. After several hours of street view mapping analysis, I was able to provide local authorities with two potential locations, supported by the very brief intelligence provided, and a request that they follow up the matter through their wildlife crime partnerships.
RWAF advise the public that they only purchase their rabbits and other animals from reputable rescue centres. Sales through online platforms resulting in cash transactions and no receipts mean no recourse for in the event of a problem and almost pure profit for unscrupulous traders.
Other unusual issues reported or identified in this period have been reports of a beggar in Leicester Square, Central London, who rather than using the traditional dog to attract passers-by, is using rabbits in shopping baskets to entice the crowds and make his money. This is being looked at with contacts from the local Police Station.
Additionally, I have identified seven traders involved in the online trade of illicit items ranging from products derived from endangered species to counterfeit software, toys and DVDs. These traders have all been referred to the appropriate enforcement agencies, as has a suspected drug factory identified during a rural observation visit in Kent.
One final point of interest was my ongoing work relating to a ‘homeopathic’ rabbit remedy manufacturer and seller, reported by head office. Having confirmed that medicinal claims were being made particularly in relation to RVHD2, this individual was traced to a business premises and has been referred to the Veterinary Medicines enforcement organisation for further action.
We have been contacted by a concerned member who found ‘rabbit treats’ for sale and contacted us. Our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Richard Saunders has written as follows to the manufacturer Happy Pets and the retailer which has already withdrawn them from sale.
‘We are writing to you to express concerns regarding a number of products sold in your stores, with regard to the ingredients of fruit, yogurt and, particularly, chocolate. (eg the Critters’ choice chocolate drops). It’s worth noting that rabbits have both very low requirements for simple carbohydrates, and can develop potentially life threatening caecal dysbiosis if they ingest too much sugar, but that they do select sweet food items. Selling these is therefore a rather cynical case of feeding something that is popular with the animal, but very much not good for it. In a risk:benefit analysis there would appear to be no benefit whatsoever to feeding such items, and a potential risk of severe and expensive GI stasis, and potentially even death.
However, chocolate has far greater potential to cause health issues in rabbits, as it contains the alkaloid theobromine which can cause diarrhoea and death by heart failure in a number of species, notably dogs, but also rabbits. It is proving rather difficult to obtain a nutritional breakdown of this brand, but if this contains theobromine, it is quite a risk selling a product with a known toxin to a susceptible species and we would strongly recommend that you discontinue stocking it as soon as possible. A similar risk:benefit analysis clearly identifies no benefit and a very significant and well known risk of death, which would be indefensible should such morbidity or mortality result.’
Richard Saunders BVSc DZooMed MRCVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management
Here at RWAF we are often asked our opinion on things like harnesses, clothes for rabbits and this week taking rabbits out in pushchairs!
It is impossible to cover every eventuality that owners might think up for their pet rabbits, but to try and cover as many as possible we would say that rabbits should be neutered and vaccinated, fed a hay based diet, and kept in compatible pairs and with 24/7 access to a large safe exercise area with a shelter. We recommend a minimum area of 3mx 2m x 2m high for two average sized rabbits, regardless of them being kept inside or outside. Supervised free range time in a safe garden or bunny proofed areas of the house are good in addition to this but should not be instead of.
There is no benefit at all to a rabbit, as a prey animal, to be dressed up in clothes, to wear a harness, to be pushed in a push chair, or taken on an unnecessary car ride at all, in fact they can be detrimental to their welfare by causing them stress, so we do not approve of these things.
There are so many considerations. Rescue work can be an emotional roller-coaster of highs and lows – our helpful thoughts list may help you decide if running a rescue is right for you.
Time & Emotional Support
It’s important to understand that the Rescue is “YOU” – even with reliable volunteers the “buck” really does stop with you.
There may be times when you feel completely alone with the burden that running a rescue can bring and emotional burnout is sadly common in rescue work.
It really is essential you have the time to devote and support from family and volunteers as it can be easy to underestimate the impact rescue work can have on your life quality and all those around you. Even when the best outcome comes along of re-homing a rabbit to a new home, there is a wealth of work involved such as home checks and support for the new owners which very often goes on beyond the initial rabbit re-homing.
Consider a disaster recovery plan – what would happen if you were suddenly taken away from the rescue for any reason – do you have family or reliable volunteers you could call on for help to feed and medicate in your absence.
The requirement to multi-skill whilst keeping emotions in check in highly challenging situations can be very hard and emotially draining. Take some time to think about areas you may need extra help with, are you comfortable training
volunteers? Can you delegate tasks easily? Can you give direction? Can you give emotional support to those giving up their pets? Can you make the decision to put an animal to sleep if needed? Can you be non-judgemental?
When finances are tight, can you choose between financing expensive treatments for an animal with a chronic condition or offering a rescue place to a healthy one?
Are you going to provide additional services such as bonding, boarding, education?
A well thought-out plan will help to increase the chance of success for your rescue. In offering these services it will be necessary to have strong administrative skills or someone to do this for you in creating supportive documents such as boarding contracts, general education and advice literature.
Do you have access to a neutral bonding area and time for additional ongoing support which is very often required for both successful and unsuccessful rabbit bondings.
Finances and funding require thought and planning.
The list of expenditure is endless. Essentials such as adequate welfare housing, food, regular vaccinations & general veterinary care, Insurances are just the starting point of escalating costs involved in running a rescue.
Investigate how you might manage fundraising – it’s unlikely you will have the time to do this yourself – are you able to have a responsible, trustworthy person to manage this on your behalf.
Local Planning Permissions may apply depending on your rescue location. Also keep in mind that neighbour disputes & complaints can arise from increased car parking, aviary sheds/hutches. Local Authorities have power of closure. Unfortunately should this happen the animals can then become an increased pressure in attempting to find alternative rescue placements.
Investigate your nearest rabbit savvy vets. Arrange a visit to establish their services. It may be worth researching nearest specialist referral vets in case more challenging vet care is needed. Talk to your vets about their payment policy – is it pay as you go or are account facilities available.
With increasing outbreaks of rabbit viruses it will be essential to have a biohazard plan in place. Consider how you would implement this if the worst happens.
What is your rescue policy regarding boarding rabbits and quarantine areas for new arrival rescue rabbits?
A waste management licence is normally required for regular tipping of rabbit waste and you may need to invest in a dedicated laundry area for washing of bedding for special needs rabbits and reduce cross contamination of disease.
Know your Limits
You will need the emotional strength to be able say “No room at the Rabbit Inn”
It’s very hard to try not to see yourself as the only solution and continue to take in rabbits regardless of the impact on your finances and resources as well as the impact on rabbits already in your care. Do not wait until you are in a crisis situation to ask for help.
Utilise social community to get to know other rescues where you can share information and offer each other support. Social communities can also be a great way of keeping up to date with news, changes to legislation, veterinary/medical information.
Rescues are always in need of dedicated volunteers – why not try some regular volunteer work, it’s a great way to learn about all the highs and lows of rescue work and how much of a committed lifestyle is required in running a rescue. You wlll also have access to a wealth of experience and guidance to help you in your decision of running a rescue.
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
In the news
Richard, our Expert Vet, has been busy putting together articles for the Mail on Sunday Healthy Pet Magazine, and also for Pet Plan’s journal. On top of this we did an interview for The Times about our Capone Campaign and the huge effect that this is now having, with many other organisations using the software that we commissioned. The tool has really taken on a life of it’s own under the guidance of Keith Hinde and Tech4pets, and we are thrilled with the results it is achieving. Follow Tech4pets on Facebook for more information.
Click the link below to view the Times article in full
Speaking of which, Mark, our Welfare Officer, has been working hard and has this update for us:
“Since June 2018 I have examined over 1,500 advertisements and advertisers across the UK. Of those where I have identified people selling and advertising more than once a month, I have carried forward 261 traders/advertisers for further examination and enquiries.
“Many of these are untraceable, but I have fully researched 22 and referred seven of those to local authorities and the RSPCA, with a further nine referred to other interested agencies.
“In this period (June to December 2018), I have had two responses; one council is still making enquiries and the second refused to investigate, stating that it was not within their remit and that they could not see that the breeder was committing any offences. Sadly this is a common response from many councils whose licensing teams are stretched to the limit under austerity measures, and therefore apply their resources to what is perceived to be higher-risk licensing problems. This means that they often devote little or no resource to animal welfare licensing.
“In addition I have identified a further three traders engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods. These have been referred to the local authority Trading Standards Departments. Also three traders engaged in the apparent sale of goods derived from endangered species; these have been referred to the appropriate Police units”.
Some casework examples from the second half of 2018 have been:
1 Report of factory breeding in awful conditions in Rutland at an unspecified location. A potential location was identified and passed to the RSPCA for further action.
2 Ongoing and lengthy enquiry to identify and locate a prolific seller in Kent using numerous platforms. At the time of writing we are anticipating a referral.
3 Complaints relating to sales of homeopathic remedies for RVHD2 by an online seller. The trader has been referred to DEFRA Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
4 Complaint about a local trader in Manchester selling an ill rabbit and refusing to acknowledge the buyer’s concerns. Enquiries linked him to numerous sites and many different types of animals being bred and sold. This has been referred to the local authority and RSPCA.
5 Reports of a beggar on Leicester Square using rabbits to entice the public (October 2018 ongoing).
Mark’s point about councils not investigating due to lack of resources highlights the nature of the battle we are fighting, but makes us even more determined to keep on trying because we need to do everything we can to prevent the suffering caused by unlicensed and casual breeders. The Capone campaign was so-called because the famous gangster was brought to justice not for his obvious crimes, but for secondary offences. Finding evidence of the sale of counterfeit goods is an example of this approach – anything to hinder these unscrupulous traders.
Anybody following any of the rabbit rescue groups on Social Media will probably have seen many rescues in the UK step in to help out a ‘rescue’ that had been keeping rabbits in absolutely atrocious conditions. We don’t know the history of the so-called rescue, or the person involved, but the rabbits are now safe with genuine rescues and are getting the best care possible. It is terrifying to think that someone calling themselves a rescue could behave in this way, and that the animals in their care could be so neglected. This serves as a warning to all of us that we need to do our homework when deciding to support a rescue financially, or to anyone surrendering a rabbit to a rescue for whatever reason. Please ask questions; any genuine rescue will be happy to answer them for you, and always ask around. Has anyone you trust seen or been inside? Do they give good advice? Does their website give information about the people in charge? Be wary of any organisation that does not give the names and experience of the people that run it, because this suggests that they may have something to hide.
Please take the time to do some research before you hand over any money, sign any petition and especially if you are trying to rehome rabbits.
It’s a shame that we have to be so careful because there are so many good rescues doing great work – please don’t stop supporting genuine rescues, but be sure to do your homework.
Although the RWAF is not a rescue, at times we are made aware of situations that we cannot ignore. Last month we were involved in a case where a large commercial breeding facility was closed. We worked closely with all involved and were able to get the remaining 37 rabbits to safety. They were mainly mums and babies.
As always a successful rescue relies on teamwork, so a huge thanks goes to the brilliant team at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Hospital for Small Animals exotics team. Special thanks going to vets Jenna Richardson and Kevin Eatwell for allowing us to fill their wards and for health checking all the rabbits and starting them off on a vaccination and neutering programme.
Huge thanks also to the incredible volunteers we rallied locally to offer short-term foster homes to acclimatise the rabbits to love and comfort, and to the rescues that have offered them spaces, in particular our friends at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care who took a whopping 13 rabbits for us.
The RWAF are funding all the health checking, treatments, vaccinating and neutering cost of all the rabbits, which we expect to run in to several thousands of pounds.
Very sadly it was not good news for all of the rabbits that we managed to rescue, because some of the health problems were just too severe. However, they were given the very best chance possible and decisions were not made lightly. This is the hard side of rescue and something we are pleased we do not have to face every day, unlike the many rabbits rescues, for whom it is part of their day to day lives.
The lucky rabbits that were placed with rescue centres are doing well and several have already been adopted. We hope to bring you some happy ending stories next time.
We have just had our first invoice for the vet fees so far and it was £2,478.80, so the funds raised before Christmas online are a huge help towards this.
New website for pet owners
In November, as part of our role in the Pet Advertising Advisory Committee, we were one of a number of the UK’s leading animal welfare organisations, veterinary and industry bodies who have come together to launch a website to help guide the general public in what to look for when acquiring a new pet. More information is featured in Round Up on page 32. Visit the website at: howtobuyapet.org.uk
Webinar on RVHD2
We were pleased to work with Hipra, the manufacturer of Eravac, one of the RVHD2 vaccines on the market, to put this excellent webinar together. You need to create an account to view it, but you do not need to be a vet professional. Our thanks to Hipra for this. Go to: hipra.vbms-training.co.uk
Don’t wait, vaccinate
We were really pleased that Pets Corner and Nottcutts Garden centres agreed to display our new ‘Don’t wait, vaccinate’ poster in their stores. This will help us raise awareness of the need to vaccinate all pet rabbits. Our sincere thanks to them for working with us on this vital issue.
Rabbit-Friendly Vet list
The list now stands at 130 rabbit-friendly vet practices in the UK.
A reminder that this list is available on our website to anyone looking for a rabbit-savvy vet. To be included vet practices need to be a member of the RWAF and to have completed a comprehensive questionnaire that is reviewed by our RWAF veterinary adviser Richard Saunders.
Coming next issue
The summer 2019 Rabbiting On will include features on:
• Bladder stones and sludge – Veterinary surgeon, Nathalie Wissink-Argilaga looks at what causes rabbits to develop bladder stones and sludge, the signs and treatments.
• What does poisonous mean for rabbits? – Veterinary surgeon, Guen Bradbury explains how rabbits naturally avoid poisonous plants.
• Physiotherapy – Veterinary physiotherapist, Gill Griffiths describes how and why physio is used to treat rabbits.
• How to nebulise your rabbit – Registered Veterinary Nurse, Rachel Sibbald guides us through the process.
And much more…Don’t miss out! Ensure that your subscription is up-to-date so you can receive the issue hot off the press in May 2019.
RWAF FOCUS – WHO IS WHO AT THE RWAF?
Ros Lamb – Director
Ros is the RWAF’s Fundraising Officer. She keeps in touch with the agencies that provide fundraising platforms and is always on the lookout for more. She contacts donors, where we have contact details for them, to thank them for donating. We can do that being a small organisation, unlike larger bodies that receive so many donations and cannot pass on personal thank you messages. She also oversees our annual
Ros also mans the RWAF Helpline three days per week – if you phone us on Monday, Tuesday or Friday, it’s Ros you’ll speak to. And she answers most of the RWAF’s incoming mails. If you write to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org it’s Ros who will respond. This means a lot of contact with members of the rabbit-owning public, vets, boarding owners, rescues and so on.
She was one of the team who helped create our new website which of course is an ongoing project. She coordinates with Outreach Officer Hilary Luckett to identify rescues for our Sponsor a Rescue scheme.
Ros didn’t have rabbits as a child although there were always family pets – dogs, budgies, tortoises, parrots, fish – and when she became an adult she became a horse owner. She had four horses over the next 31 years and they all had a home for life with her. Rabbits came into her life in early 1998 and over those years she has always had a pair of neutered, bonded rabbits. A pair is as many as she has space and finances to look after properly, but when she wins the Lottery…! All of them have been rescues – of course! Some adopted from rescue centres, some privately rescued. This doesn’t amount to a lot of rabbits, but it does mean many, many years’ learning which is still going on, and happily they have all lived long lives. She became a RWAF member in the same year she adopted her first rabbit, although in those days it was called the British Houserabbit Association.
Ros was a teacher in secondary schools and further education from 1975 until she retired in 2008, and soon after that she was invited to join the RWAF management.
Keep your rabbits safe over Christmas. There’s a variety of dangers
Chewing the tree or its lighting cables. Real dangers. Whether you have a real or an imitation tree, put up a barrier around it and keep those electric cables where your bunnies cannot get to them
Holly and mistletoe are both very toxic. Make sure your beloved pets can’t get to either. If you have them, keep them both well away from rabbit accessible areas
Wrapping paper and the gifts themselves. Nobody wants a chewed present and of course ingesting that paper with its inks and possibly sometimes polymers too is very dangerous for rabbits, so keep gifts out of reach of bunnies
Eating too much of the wrong thing. We all eat some treats in the festive season, probably more than we should, but be careful not to let your rabbits get to anything that might be toxic to them or too much of what they might like. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and in fact is bad for most species including us. For rabbits, the sugars may well be the biggest problem, so as with other treats, keep them away from your rabbits and if you have appropriate treats for them – low carbs, no egg, no dairy – remember, they are still just that, treats, and should only be given in very small amounts. You don’t want to be taking your beloved rabbits to the emergency vet on Christmas afternoon!
Company, hustle and bustle – Christmas and New Year are times for families, visitors, people who generally wouldn’t be in contact with your rabbits, and likely not in large numbers. It’s often noisy as well. Remember this can be very confusing and sometimes frightening for your rabbits. They are prey animals, used to you and your immediate family so make a visitor-free zone where your rabbits can feel safe and can keep away from noise and bustle, won’t be handled inappropriately and won’t be fed the wrong things….and cannot escape out of your door when people are coming and going.
Sadly we are still receiving reports every single day of cases of sudden deaths. We know people getting this message will have ensured their rabbits have fully up to date vaccinations – both Nobivac (Myxo & RVHD1) plus either Filavac or Eravac (RVHD2) – but not everybody receives this, not everybody knows about our advice and there are very clearly a lot of rabbit owners out there still not vaccinating. Please share our new vaccination poster wherever you can. You can download it here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Vaccinate-Poster-new.jpg
Owners don’t all follow our social media, not all of them are aware of our website and sadly for whatever reason, aren’t getting proper advice from vets, so we’re asking you to find places to display the poster. Pet shops, vet waiting rooms, libraries, any shop/supermarket that sells rabbit food (ask them to display it beside the food), anywhere else you can think of that rabbit owners might see it, including any online social media you might visit.
This important information is being added to all emails. Please disregard if your rabbits have already been vaccinated with both Nobivac Myxo RHD and either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac.
There is a mutated strain of RVHD that is deadly, RVHD2. Unvaccinated rabbits don’t stand a chance against it. It is present all over the UK and vaccination against it is vital. Unfortunately the standard Nobivac combined vaccine doesn’t cover it, although that is still essential to protect against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. If your rabbits aren’t already vaccinated against it, what you need is either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac. Discuss frequency of vaccination with your vet. The two vaccines (Nobivac and the RVHD2 vaccine) should not be given at the same time, there should be at least 2 weeks between them. If you need to have this done and your vet doesn’t stock the vaccine, there is a map here that shows vets who do. Another tab on the same website shows reported cases, which we know only shows the tip of a very large iceberg, as this disease is very hard to recognise having few to no symptoms at all and so is generally unreported.
If you are in the sad position of losing a rabbit unexpectedly please let us know, along with the first part of your postcode so that we can notify the owner of this map http://rhd2map.buntools.org.uk/index.php?&p=cases and also our own social media followers. Another tab on the map site also shows vets who stock vaccine, useful information for us all.
We’ve been asked to share this survey. Chloe Macgeath, who is second year veterinary medicine student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is undertaking a research project. She says, “I have decided to do mine on rabbit behaviour, specifically looking at whether there is any behavioural differences between outdoor rabbits and those that kept entirely indoors and have no access to outdoor space. I will also look at the influence of other factors such as diet, sex and companionship.”
We’re very happy to see photos and videos from rescue and of those already in their forever homes, where they are finally able to exercise all the typical rabbit behaviours that they haven’t ever been able to previously. Such a very sad start in life for these lovely souls, but a great life for them now, at long last. We inevitably incurred significant bills – some had health problems, all needed to be vaccinated, all the adults neutered, and once the babies are old enough, we’ll be funding their neutering too, so if you haven’t already donated, please do. People have already been very generous and although we haven’t yet had the final bill, we estimate it to be about £3000. Even £1 will help though of course if you can manage more, that would be fantastic – and don’t forget Gift Aid if you pay Income Tax. That will bring us in an extra 25% direct from HMRC, at no cost to you.
Of course we can’t leave without reminding you to keep membership subscriptions up to date. We’ve been able to introduce Direct Debit for online subscription so you no longer need to have a PayPal account to have automatic renewals. You still can if you want, but Direct Debit costs us less per transaction (which helps keep down your membership subs costs) and doesn’t rely on you keeping your card details up to date with PayPal. You can renew here https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product-category/memberships/renewal-memberships/
Although the RWAF is not a rescue, at times we are made aware of a situation that we cannot ignore. Last month we were involved in such a situation in Scotland which involved the closure of a large commercial breeding facility. We worked closely with all involved and were able to get the remaining 37 rabbits to safety. They were mainly mums and babies.
As always a successful rescue relies on team work, so a huge thanks goes to the brilliant team at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Hospital for Small Animals exotics team. Special thanks going to vets Jenna Richardson and Kevin Eatwell for allowing us to fill their wards and for health checking all of the rabbits and starting them off on a vaccination and neutering programme.
Huge thanks also to the incredible volunteers we rallied locally who offered short term foster homes to acclimatise the rabbits to love and comfort and to the rescues that have offered them spaces, in particular our friends at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care who took a whopping 13 rabbits for us.
RWAF are funding all the health checking, treatments, vaccinating and neutering cost of all the rabbits and so we are asking for your help!
If you can donate anything at all to help with these costs we would be very grateful.
Please tick for Gift Aid too if you are eligible. Both fundraising sites will process it and it adds a further 25% to your donation from HMRC at no extra cost to you
We expect this rescue to cost into the thousands, however if there are any surplus funds from this fundraiser over and above our costs, we will add it to our campaign funds which you can read about here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Richard’s new qualification
As if Richard Saunders was not already fantastic enough, he has added another qualification to his name. He now has the European College of Zoological Medicine, Diploma Specialist in Zoo Health Management to add to his accolades. This gives him more letters after his name, and he is now on the Scientific Committee for EBVS.
RVHD2 HIPRA webinar
Richard has recorded a webinar with HIPRA, who are the manufacturer of Eravac, on the ever-popular subject of RVHD2. As soon as it is available we will share the link to it on social media, so keep your eyes peeled.
We now have over 110 rabbit friendly vets on the rabbit friendly vet list! This is free to access to anyone via our website. Due to huge demand we have had to close applications for the rest of 2018, because we have such a backlog to get through, but we will be opening it up again in the New Year. This is great news as it shows that practices are keen to be considered rabbit savvy, and realise the rising status of rabbits in the UK. Anyone who is looking for a rabbit savvy vet can find our list here: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-care-advice/rabbit-friendly-vets/rabbit-friendly-vet-list/
Save the dates
We are finalising the conference dates for 2019 so you might like to save these dates: 1st June– Non clinical day (owners, rescue workers) in Birmingham. 1st June– Clinical͚Rabbit Essentials͛ day, in Birmingham. This is for vets and vet nurses. It is lecture based and will cover subjects that we think are essential for every small animal practice. 22nd June– Advanced Rabbit Practice, at The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead. Lecture based, but covering more advanced rabbit care and investigation using the fantastic team at the RVC. 23rd June– Rabbit Interactive Roadshow – 2 x 3-hour workshops covering dentistry and airway management, also at the RVC, with the fabulous Craig Hunt. Small group so be sure to book early. 1st December– Rabbit Interactive Roadshow – 2 x 3-hour workshops covering dentistry and airway management, in Newcastle Upon Tyne, using the awesome Kevin Eatwell. Small group so book early to grab a place.
Full details will follow shortly. Please keep an eye on our website, and social media, or sign up to our First Alert service. You will be able to book via our shop website shortly.
Consultations and new legislation
Despite the amount of work and debate that Brexit has generated, there is still some progress with animal welfare legislation. There have been consultations for the UK for animal sentience and for Scotland with regards to breeding and licencing. This is obviously an area we are very keen on, given our Capone Campaign work, and something we can respond to with a lot of confidence. There have also been consultations on licencing of pet shops, riding schools etc., and on the 1st October 2018 the English government launched new regulations for the sale of puppies in the UK. This is great news, and we will be looking into the possibility of this legislation applying to rabbits also.
BBC Radio Shropshire – The rabbit and guinea pig debate
BBC Radio Shropshire phoned the helpline in October after an on air discussion between listeners who were discussing keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together, which caused some contention. We were invited on the next day to put the record straight, which is exactly what Richard did!
For interest, this is our official stance:
We are often asked about keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together. This is not advisable for the following reasons: ͞Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract of a number of species, including dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, related to B pertussis, which causes whooping cough in humans. It is often described as commensal in rabbits (i.e. found in this species without causing harm), however, it can be a primary disease-causing organism, and can complicate other infections such as Pasteurella. It can, though, be fatal in guinea pigs, and so keeping them in the same airspace as rabbits is not advised.
͞Rabbits and guinea pigs have different dietary requirements, particularly guinea pigs’ need for Vitamin C. ͞Rabbits and guinea pigs are not the same species, and cannot respond appropriately to one another’s behaviours. This may result in inadequate social behaviours, up to and including severe bullying. ͞
The main reason these species used to be kept together was for companionship without the risk of pregnancy. With improvements in anaesthetic safety and more widespread neutering of both species, this is less of a problem now. Whilst we would not recommend putting them together in the first place in this day and age, we would not advocate splitting up a stable sole rabbit:sole guinea pig pairing͟.
New vaccination poster
We are still hearing of owners who do not know about RVHD2 and the need for a second vaccine. Feedback suggested that our vaccination poster did not get the message across so we have a new vaccination poster which we hope will be more effective. If you are on social media please share. You can find it on our own social media pages and website. Just to clarify, this is our advice on vaccinations: ͞You will need to give your rabbits two vaccines every year to protect them. The most common are Nobivac (protects against myxomatosis and RVHD1) and Filavac (protects against RVHD1&2), or Eravac (protects against RVHD2)͟.
A full size version of the poster is on our Campaign page, under Resources
Latest on RVHD2
In addition to the confusion over the vaccines there seem to be rumours surfacing about more diseases. Just to put the record straight we have released this statement:
͞”Here at the RWAF we are aware of 3 significant fatal viral diseases of rabbits in the UK. ͞
Myxomatosis (covered by the vaccine Nobivac Myxo-RHD); Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (covered by Nobivac Myxo-RHD), and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (covered by the vaccines Filavac KC and V, or Eravac).
͞We are not aware of any further versions of RVHD present in the UK, although the variant K5 has been discovered in Asia and Australasia. ͞
We are not aware of any viral infections that are acutely fatal to rabbits and rodents recently arriving in the UK. ͞
If anyone has documentary evidence of any exotic diseases arriving in the UK in future please inform us and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)͟.
Myxomatosis in hares
Just as we were going to press there was an article in the news about a hare being diagnosed with myxomatosis in the UK.
Here at the RWAF we have been asked, over the past week or so, about myxomatosis in native wild brown hares in the UK. It’s important to be aware that this information is subject to change as the investigating continues, but is correct at time of posting.
Sporadic cases have been reported in the past, of suspected or confirmed myxomatosis in hares, including one which was written up in the veterinary press in 2014. However, this appears to be different in that multiple cases, from a wide geographical spread, are being reported to Dr Diana Bell, University of East Anglia and, whilst some have obvious external symptoms of myxomatosis, other dead hares look fine/in good condition or are seen dying with unusual neurological symptoms including an inability to move and seizures. A number of possible causes are being explored, including a change in virulence of myxomatosis virus, infection with Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2), or European Brown Hare Syndrome, individually or as co-infections, and it’s possible that other factors are involved.
What would really help the ongoing study into the large scale deaths of this iconic species would be for any members of the public finding a dead or ill hare to contact Dr Bell on: email@example.com. Please try and keep the body refrigerated whilst contacting Diana to arrange for a full post-mortem analysis.
Filming for RWAF YouTube channel
We are aware that our YouTube channel is in need of more content so we have recently spent the day with the lovely people at Vets4Pets Emmerson Green, Bristol, to film standard procedures and best practice. We hope that this will be accessible and useful to a wide range of people. Huge thanks to Sylvie Bolioli for giving up her time to do this
for us. We hope to have a lot of content for vets and owners in 2019. Again, watch this space for an update.
New RWAF Team member!
We are excited to announce the newest member of the RWAF Team – please welcome baby Eden. Emma (Boyd) gave birth to gorgeous little Eden on 15th September. It will be no surprise to read that Eden is already a rabbit fan and has a good collection of rabbit themed clothes and toys. Emma is on maternity leave until the New Year but she will soon be back in the swing of things and working alongside Rae to organise the CPD for 2019. If Eden is anything like her amazing mum then animal welfare is going to have a fantastic new advocate.
Here at the RWAF we have been asked, over the past week or so, about Myxomatosis in native wild brown hares in the UK. Its important to be aware that this information is subject to change as the investigating continues, but is correct at time of posting.
Sporadic cases have been reported in the past, of suspected of confirmed myxomatosis in hares, including one which was written up in the veterinary press in 2014. However, this appears to be different in that multiple cases, from a wide geographical spread, are being reported to Dr Diana Bell, University of East Anglia <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and, whilst some have obvious external symptoms of myxomatosis, other dead hares look fine/in good condition or are seen dying with unusual neurological symptoms including inability to move and seizures. A number of possible causes are being explored, including a change in virulence of myxomatosis virus, infection with Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RHD2), or European Brown Hare Syndrome, individually or as co-infections, and its possible that other factors are involved.
What would really help the ongoing study into the large scale deaths of this iconic species, would be for any members of the public finding a dead or ill hare to contact Dr Bell and to store the body refrigerated whilst contacting Diana to arrange full post-mortem analysis.
RWAF recommend that pet rabbits are neutered and kept with another friendly rabbit. In our experience a neutered male / female pair works best. They are social animals and suffer from stress when kept without the companionship of their own species.
There is research to support this advice:
Research has shown that rabbits value companionship as highly as food. (Seaman et al 2008) (Lisiewicz et al 2009)Rabbits housed in pairs show a decrease in abnormal behaviour patterns, such as fur chewing and bar biting. (Khrohn et al 1999, Chu et al 2004)
All major welfare organisations in the UK agree with this advice.
Remember also that rabbits and guinea pigs are not suitable companions. Both species are social but need to be bonded with members of their own species.
We often hear that people think that their rabbits are happy alone, and can not be bonded. In our experience of over 20 years of rescue and bonding this is very rare. More likely the reason that rabbits do not bond sucessfully is because they are not introduced property or because those two particular rabbits are simply not compatible. There is a lot of advice out there, but not all of it is based on fact. We pride ourselves on providing up to date and correct information.