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Do you shop on Amazon? How about trying Amazon Smile. At no cost to you, all the same prices, all the same great service, Amazon will give us commission on your purchases. Follow this link to sign up smile.amazon.co.uk
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
For those of you that may be reading this for the first time, a quick reminder about our Capone Campaign.
The online sale of pet rabbits is a huge problem and rapidly increasing. Rabbits are sold without any accompanying care advice and without any vetting of the buyer. Rabbits are probably the most misunderstood of pets, so when people take them on without knowing how to care for them it often results in neglect and suffering on the part of the rabbit. On top of this, because there is no vetting of the buyer, it is known that rabbits are bought not as pets but as live food or for use in animal training.
Pet shops in the UK are licenced by their local authorities and subject to annual inspections. They are also public places and welfare standards front of shop can be monitored by the public who can report any concerns. Pet shops should also be licensed according to the Sale of Pets 1951 legislation, and according to the Model Licence Conditions that were updated in 2013. All of this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems in terms of welfare, but it at least provides some protection for the animals, and some legal recourse for concerned parties such as the RWAF.
This is not the case with online sales. Anyone can breed animals at home and sell them online. This activity is not licensed and there are no inspections. It is not public and there are no model conditions to be adhered to. It is mostly cash based and therefore untaxed.
The Campaign – its aims
1 The RWAF and Pets Corner, using software developed by Hindesight, want to identify people who appear to be operating at home as pet shops and to capture their online activity.
2 To highlight these sellers to their Local Authorities and state that they be licenced and inspected as pet shops. We have guidance from DEFRA to support this.
3 To report these sellers to HMRC to ensure that they are paying the correct tax.
4 To ask that the classified sites register these sellers as commercial and not private accounts.
5 To keep a log of the reactions of every Local Authority and use this to report to the Minister for Animal Welfare at the end of the trial period to highlight where the legislation is not working and needs to be improved.
6 To lobby for improved legislation where the need is identified.
Outcomes hoped for
1 Identify unlicensed sellers, which are most likely going to be backyard breeders where welfare standards are 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 A log of responses and actions taken, or lack of, amongst Local Authorities.
6 A sound basis for lobbying for better welfare or resources in Local Authorities.
We are now starting our third year of this campaign, and Mark Dron has been with us for just over 12 months. Because of his background in the Police force Mark has widened his role to include offences that breach trading standards, as well as welfare, he will explain more about this in his update below.
Mark is keeping very busy using the data supplied by Hindesight and also complaints we get from supporters. We are delighted that Pets Corner have agreed to fund Mark’s position for another 12 months. Mark is a huge asset to the RWAF and continues to push for better standards and welfare. Our thanks to Pets Corner for their support that has made this position possible.
“In the last month we have established that Pets Corner have agreed to finance the Animal Welfare Officer
initiative for another year; my thanks to Pets Corner for their commitment to assisting with the growing effort to control unregulated internet sales of pet animals.
“This has been a busy few months with plenty of reactive and proactive work to keep me occupied. As a result of the complaints received, I have investigated and referred an active online trader based in Manchester to Salford City Council’s Environmental Health licensing team; this individual appears to have sold at least two rabbits for cash that subsequently very quickly succumbed to Myxomatosis. When challenged by the buyer, the seller denied all knowledge of the rabbits or the sale or indeed of any health issues amongst his animals.
“My investigations have linked this seller to sales of rabbits of all types as well as guinea pigs and a diverse array of birds including budgies and chickens, across a wide range of sales platforms.
“As well as being a very sad story since one of the newly purchased rabbits had died as a result of the infection, this is also a stark example of the perils of buying animals online for cash, from individuals who on occasions
place profit before animal welfare. Sales through online platforms resulting in cash transactions and no receipts, mean no recourse for you in the event of a problem and almost pure profit for unscrupulous traders. The individual has been identified and referred to the City Council, HMRC and the RSPCA for further investigation and where necessary enforcement action.
“I have also been involved in an enquiry relating to an alleged ‘vaccine’ for myxomatosis and RHD-2; this is apparently a homeopathic remedy that can also be used in different variants to treat canine, horse and feline ailments.
“As per guidance published by the RWAF’s veterinary specialist on Twitter, there is no substitute for the genuine and approved vaccine. Homeopathic ‘vaccines’ are untested and are unlikely to provide the protection for your animals that the genuine veterinary medicines can.
“The ‘vaccine’ is being investigated and the seller(s) will be referred to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) for further enquiries.
“Aside from these two major work-streams, I have also been maintaining my watch on internet sales platforms, building up a picture of the size and scale of online sales, helped by Hindesight’s sales monitoring software and the use of open source research tools”.
With the heat wave continuing, please remember any outdoor rabbits. Here is some advice from Richard Saunders BSc(Hons) BVSc MSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS
RCVS Specialist in Zoo And Wild Animal Medicine
Offer a water bowl so that they can get a better drink; they will drink more efficiently and faster this way, and that’s important in the heat. Cool water will help to cool them down a bit. Don’t chill the water, but make sure it’s not boiling in the sun
Do not give your rabbits to ice cubes as they can cause problems with their digestion system.
Sun tan lotion is a no. They are likely to lick it off, and we have yet to see a rabbit with ear skin cancer. Instead, make sure you offer them plenty of shade, but if you are draping something over a run, make sure the air can circulate. Use of a battery operated fan on runs or enclosures can help.
Frozen water bottles or cool pods are helpful. ,
No need to change diet at all just, to stick to usual diet and make sure they drink lots by following the tips above.
Access to a safe shady exercise area 24/7 is even more important in this heat as they will want to exercise when it cools down am and pm.
If you’re on Pinterest please help discourage people from posting pins of trancing. We’ve been notified today that there’s a growing number of pins there from people who genuinely believe it’s okay which we as knowledgeable owners know it isn’t.
We’ve posted our Trancing posters on our own Health and Welfare board today with very clear messages, so if you’re a Pinteresteer (just made that up, you can probably tell!) please share our pins to help people understand that it’s a major welfare concern.
Here’s the other https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/394557617349789844/
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.
The poster was updated this week and can be downloaded here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/resources/
We are actually finding that by sharing to general pet groups we are getting the message to new people who weren’t aware.
**RABBIT OWNERS NEED TO KNOW, ALL THESE DISEASES ARE DEADLY**
**ALL THESE DISEASES CAN BE PROTECTED AGAINST**
Full advice is on the RWAF website on vaccinations – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/vaccinations/
myxomatosis – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/myxomatosis/
RVHD – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/rabbit-vhd/
and further reading including biosecurity – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/further-reading/rvhd-further-reading/
We don’t usually publish First Alerts here, but we may well reach more owners by doing so, so here’s today’s message sent out to list members
With this hot weather set to continue please look at our advice for keeping rabbits cool https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/its-summer-are-your-rabbits-cool-dudes-or-hot-cross-buns/
Following on with more hot weather advice are all your rabbits’ vaccinations up to date? There will be biting insects everywhere and particularly places where there is any standing water at all. These are the main vectors of myxomatosis and they will also carry deadly RVHD virus from infected rabbits. All reports that we have had we have passed on to the owner of this map http://rhd2map.buntools.org.uk/index.php?&p=cases and she does updated regularly. You’ll see that there are places that appear not to have any outbreaks. Don’t be complacent if you live in those areas. It doesn’t mean the disease isn’t there, it only means that nobody has reported sudden deaths. This horrible disease has crossed the Atlantic, nowhere in the UK is safe. The best available protection is vaccination with Filavac or Eravac vaccine in addition to your rabbits’ usual Nobivac. Our latest advice is here and it contains a link to the very recently updated further information https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/rabbit-vhd/
Some of you have contacted us when you’ve had messages from BT MyDonate to say that our account was closing down. Don’t worry we are still here. As you will know we changed our charitable status fairly recently and we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to update everything with the websites that gather donations for us. While that was an easy process with some websites, it hasn’t always been the case, and the system at MyDonate means that they had to close our existing account and open a new one. Because of data protection MyDonate was not able to give us contact details of all donors and so we weren’t able to inform everybody in advance. Our apologies for not warning you, we simply were not able to.
Our new account can be found here
https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/rabbitwelfarefundcio Don’t be confused by the CIO following our name. This was necessary for the transition period between the two accounts but MyDonate assures us those initials will soon be removed. They stand for our new charitable status, Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
We were contracted recently by some rabbit owners from Australia. You may know that myxomatosis is rife in Australia and also that there are huge restrictions in some Australian states on keeping rabbits as pets because the Australian government as a whole considers rabbits to be such a pest.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of that view the fact remains that pet owners desperately need vaccination to protect their beloved rabbits. We’ve asked you in the past to sign petitions to encourage the Australian government to allow pets myxomatosis vaccine and we’re asking you again now. They have compiled this page to describe the situation and it contains a link to the petition https://www.myxo-vaccine-aus.org We are asking you to sign and to share with family and friends.
It’s with a smile that we introduce the next topic. Our Amazon Smile account. This is a way of fundraising new to the UK although it’s been in operation in the USA for some time. If you shop with Amazon, please register with Amazon Smile and choose the Rabbit Welfare Fund as your charity. Buying from Amazon then won’t cost you anything more but if you always shop at smile.amazon.co.uk we will receive money from Amazon and its sellers. Register now at https://smile.amazon.co.uk
We can safely say that our recent annual conference was a rip-roaring success. Once again it covered 2 days. On the first day there were parallel streams for veterinary professionals in one stream and owners and rescues in the other. On the second day everybody came together for a behaviour and welfare day, and that was a resounding success. The sales of clickers on Amazon must have gone through the roof! We’ve already shared one video on social media but here’s a link to another showing rabbits’ early target training https://youtu.be/qU_ZiohPo9c If you have a Facebook account you’ll be able to see what this can progress to https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2132775030345059&id=1601736846782216&fs=5&focus_composer=0&ref=page_internal
Of course this kind of operant training wasn’t the only thing covered on the day but it’s certainly grabbed owners’ attention and demonstrated how very useful it can be to train your rabbits to perform specific tasks.
As always if you have moved house and forgotten to tell us please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your up to date details.
The next issue of Rabbiting On is well on its way to being completed so if you want to receive it on time we need to have your address. Please also ensure that your subscription is up to date. If you subscribed online it should automatically renew.
As usual you can expect the new issue to land on your doormat in early August.
And finally just in case anybody missed it we want to congratulate our wonderful Specialist Veterinary Adviser Richard Saunders once again for having been awarded the CEVA Vet Of The Year. As you can imagine we all had smiles splitting our faces when he won https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/richard-recognised-for-welfare-work/ How richly this was deserved. All UK rabbit owners owe Richard a huge debt of thanks for his amazing work getting RVHD2 vaccine into the UK and his ongoing commitment to rabbit welfare.
With summer well underway, we’ve had some stiflingly hot weather…how are your rabbits coping with the heat?
Even though rabbits originate from much hotter parts of Europe and North Africa, they are crepuscular, that is most active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, they would be able to hide from the more intense heat in underground burrows where the temperature varies by only a few degrees. Pet rabbits, especially those who live outside, are reliant on their owners to provide conditions where they can be safe and comfortable. Shade from direct sunlight is essential, so consider where your rabbit hutch or shed and run are situated. Is there any plant cover that will provide shade? A shrub or creeper will be a great help in keeping off the most intense rays of the sun. Plant a tree, but while you wait for it to grow and bush out, also plant something that is going to provide cover quickly, for example a Montana Reubens. Ensure your rabbits can’t get to it and eat it though.
Is your hutch inside a shed? If not, that would be a good idea. Garden sheds can be fairly inexpensive – sometimes you might be able to get one from your local Freecycle or Freegle group – and that would provide an extra insulation against the sun, with the extra bonus of being somewhere to store rabbit possessions, winter insulation, somewhere you can sit with the buns, give them more sheltered living/exercise space and so on. Site it somewhere shady or plant some creeper/tree cover as mentioned above. Be wary though as sheds too can get very hot, so consider double-skinning it and putting insulation between the layers – cavity wall and roof insulation for rabbits. In fact, turf roofs provide excellent insulation and although you’d need to water them in the dryer parts of summer, they do a great job. Insulation keeps heat OUT as well as IN, so whatever you do along these lines for the summer will be of benefit in the winter months too.To keep the shed cool, you will need to keep the door open, so it’s a good idea to fit a wire screen to keep it secure but still let in the fresh air.
FANS. These can be wind or solar powered, battery driven or connected to the mains. But be sure that if they are connected to a power source, your rabbits can’t get to those wires and nip them. Rabbits have a natural instinct for snipping things that look to them like tree roots. Use some hosepipe or trunking to cover wires and keep checking it…you’d be amazed just what buns are able to nibble their way through. Remember too that fans only move the air around and while that makes our skin feel cooler it doesn’t reduce the temperature of the air. So consider having the fan blowing over a frozen pop bottle and that will reduce the air temperature by a few degrees. But don’t aim a fan directly at a rabbit somewhere that it can’t get away, many of them find this very distressing.
Fill up plastic pop bottles with water and freeze them. Have a few so that some are re-freezing while one or two are in use. You can put one in the path of the fanned air to act as a mini-air conditioning system. Your rabbits might also like one to lie on to keep them cool. Cover them though so that your rabbits don’t have to be in direct contact with them. Visit Snugglebunnies for bottle covers in different sizes https://www.facebook.com/snugglebunniesfortheRWAF/?hc_ref=ARTUhdAVekTRQqYvYYENXPOEgNWi4mK8UxglYtocS7BFuuVie-fl1T7PtPU4TnWevUg You can buy Scratch and Newton ice pods too and Snugglebunnies heat pad covers fit those too. https://scratchandnewton.com/products/ice-pod
Once frozen, these will stay cool for hours. And if you cover an ice pod with the upturned large terracotta drip try from a plantpot, the temperature will remain low for longer. You can also freeze ordinary ceramic floor and wall tiles for hot buns to lie on and cool down. Some materials are naturally cool to the touch, marble for example – remember nothing’s too good for your rabbits!
Obviously always supply plenty of fresh cool water, as even though they only sweat through feet and tongue, a cool drink will make rabbits feel better, and some will even find it helpful to lie in a water dish. Rabbits can access much more fluid from a bowl than from a bottle so it’s best to provide both so they have the choice. Remember to check and refill regularly. If you do find a bun panting, it is in distress and should be brought immediately into a much cooler environment, but don’t dunk them in freezing water as the sudden temperature change could do untold harm and send their system into shock. If this was an emergency, they need to see a vet. Cool them as gently as you can by laying a damp towel over them to slowly reduce the temperature, and cover the carrier with a damp towel on the way to see a vet if you’re really worried, but generally just providing them with a much cooler space is best.
Have you somewhere they could safely tunnel underground? Could you sink wide pipes under your garden? Buns could keep lovely and cool in these, but always think about being able to get access to the rabbit – this is less advisable if your bun is already hard to catch.
FLIES. The horror of rabbit owners. Flies of course, lay eggs, and those hatch out into maggots, which literally eat their way into your rabbit’s flesh and organs – an often fatal condition for rabbits. If the eggs have been laid on your rabbit by a blowfly (a greenbottle or a bluebottle), then there is a very real danger of flystrike. So do all you can to keep flies away. Plant herbs that are thought to repel them, keep bun an dbedding/litter area scrupulously clean, buy a battery or solar powered bug zapper to hang in your shed, check your rabbits several times every day. If you have the slightest suspicion of flystrike, it is an emergency. Phone your vet and tell him or her what the problem is and get your rabbit there at once. Rather a false alarm in these circumstances than a dead rabbit. If your bun is prone to wetting itself or having caecal pellets stuck to fur, you need to work out the reason why and work with your vet on eliminating that…is your bun obese and unable to clean itself or to squat properly? Is there the possibility of arthritis? This is far more common than people realise in older rabbits. You can get products like Rearguard from your vet or from online pharmacies (no prescription needed). This product can be used if your rabbit is at risk of flystrike, as recommended by your vet. There are other products on the market. Rearguard works by preventing the maggots from developing mouth parts so they can’t eat your rabbits alive. It only needs to be applied at intervals of a few weeks. Other products need to be applied daily and are insect epellents/killers. But nothing is better than regular checks of your rabbits’ rear ends and scrupulous hygiene.
In summary, your buns need to be checked even more regularly in the hot summer months, and owners should always err on the side of caution. Best to take a bit more time than to have the unthinkable happen.
We’ve updated the Further Reading page, the FAQs about RVHD2. You can find it here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/further-reading/rvhd-further-reading/