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 Plant and Health Agency.
Richard Saunders BSc(Hons) BVSc MSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS
As always we are massive supporters of rescues and always encourage people to #adoptdontshop
It’s Welfare Wednesday today and the first one of the month, so today we are featuring rabbits at two different rescues who are available for adoption.
Here are photos and messages from the rescues, and hopefully, how you can contact them!
Just a note from us – how sad to read that 7 year old rabbits have spent their whole lives in rescue!
Jill Woodward – Honeybunnies
Red eyed white boys are sticking as many people don’t like red eyes which is a shame as they are lovely lads! Timid and a bit short sighted but lovely natured rabbits. Both are vaccinated and neutered and approx 10 months old, small to medium size.
Pictured are Bilbo and Baggins. we also have their brothers Frodo and Hobbit who is fluffier!
Also have a young lad named Sundial, very friendly but a bit of a digger, chewer and
We have pairs of rabbits looking for loving new homes –
Mariah & Amaru are 6 years old and would suit a spacious outdoor home as Mariah is half wild.
Solstice & Lindor are 6 years old and have spent most of their lives in rescue. They’re a
cheeky pair suited to a quiet indoor or outdoor home.
Mulder & Scully are 7 years old and have been in rescue their whole lives. They’re an adventurous pair who love to explore and are happy to interact with you once they get to know you.
All of our rabbits are neutered and fully vaccinated, homes must exceed RWAF guidelines and we will rehome up to three hours away.
The Rabbit Residence Rescue (registered charity 1148016) is based on the Herts/Cambs boarders and is home to around 100 rabbits at any one time.
We have a sponsor scheme for some of our long term residents who have not been rehomed due to health or behavioural issues and also offer a holiday boarding.
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 (ie 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 pairing
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Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
The Capone Campaign
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.
Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund – Animal Welfare Officer Update April to June 2018
“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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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.