Creating better tomorrows for all pet rabbits

Welfare Campaign

Breeding Amnesty Campaign

The UK is experiencing the worst rabbit rescue crisis ever. Rescue centres are struggling to cope with the amount of rabbits currently being abandoned, mistreated or surrendered.
As the nation’s leading rabbit welfare charity, we’re launching an urgent appeal for people to support our breeding amnesty and sign our urgent petition to demand government action for a change in legislation to ensure rabbit breeders require the same licensing as dog breeders to raise standards of welfare for rabbits.
Welfare Crisis

Currently, unlike other animals, there is no legislation in Currently, unlike other animals, there is no legislation in Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (the “2018 Regulations”) in England. Anyone is legally allowed to start breeding and then sell the offspring – which results in uneducated and inexperienced rabbit owners having multiple litters, that they can’t look after or sell-on to responsible pet owners.

The lack of legislation is resulting in rabbit breeders having no licence, inspection, or standards, and a result of this is that babies are being mis-sexed and sold with no proper checks or care information. Unsuspecting owners are being faced with accidental litters, which can result in rabbits being dumped and our rescue centres becoming over-run.

Neglecting Rabbits

Image: ©RSPCA

For the pot

Legally, pet shops must be licensed, this ensures that duties of care are met. Unfortunately, a licence is not needed if a person is breeding and selling rabbits online. This has become a boom area and is causing huge problems.

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund welfare team is witnessing an unprecedented rise in abandoned and mistreated rabbits, with an alarming increase in the number of rabbits for sale online

Typical press headlines since Lockdown…

Web: Last year, 5,451 cases of rabbit neglect were reported – up by 1,000 from 2020 – and 28 ……/pet-rabbits-being-cruelly-dumped-22702096

Nationwide there has been a massive increase in the number of rabbits being dumped, with ……

Web: Two pet rabbits have been found dumped in an Asda cardboard box on a country road in ……

pet rabbit was discovered abandoned in a back alleyway in St Judes, Plymouth on Thursday ……

Web: Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary has rescued 50 pet rabbits this year, all dumped, abandoned ……

Web: TWO pet rabbits were found beside a pile of cabbage in a Glasgow park. The Scottish SPCA……/1079506/RSPCA-rescue-pets-abandoned-rabbit

Web: Recently released RSPCA figures show the charity investigated 2,428 rabbit neglect …

Our Welfare Officers have seen a 77% increase on last year’s number of adverts selling rabbits.*

As life goes back to normal after COVID 19, overflowing rescue centres are facing the tough decisions of potentially turning people away, as owners struggle to afford to keep their pets.

Recent research we conducted reveals that owners are keen to maintain a high level of welfare. Sadly, low education on how rabbits breed has created a massive rise in the population.

Female rabbits can become pregnant straight away after giving birth. Yet around 1 in 3 rabbit owners (35%) didn’t know this.*

Rises in the cost of food, bedding, equipment and healthcare means more and more owners have no choice but to give up their beloved pets.

Rabbit Amnesty

Female rabbits can become pregnant straight away after giving birth. Yet around 1 in 3 rabbit owners (35%) didn’t know this.*

Rises in the cost of food, bedding, equipment and healthcare means more and more owners have no choice but to give up their beloved pets.

Rabbit Amnesty

With a change in legislation, The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund believes there would be an immediate improvement in the welfare of rabbits being sold, and therefore a drop in the number of rabbits being abandoned or dumped.

Because rescue centres across the UK are struggling to cope with the level of abandoned rabbits, in November, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund launched its Breeding Amnesty campaign calling for:

  • An immediate pause in the breeding of rabbits
  • Retailers to stop selling rabbits
  • Classified sites to stop allowing adverts for baby rabbits
  • Members of the public to support rescue and ‘adopt don’t shop’

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund and its team of veterinary advisers are calling for government action to curb this growing rabbit welfare crisis. They are urging the UK’s pet lovers to sign the petition and demand action.

Every day seems to bring a new story about rabbits in the UK being dumped in rescue centres, at vets, or just thrown out into the countryside, where they will quickly die. This has been brought about by a combination of unrestricted breeding, pandemic pet numbers increasing, and the cost-of-living crisis, as rabbits are nowhere near as cheap to keep as people first think. The only solution is a suspension of breeding rabbits until the crisis is over."

Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund Veterinary Advisor

96% of vets surveyed support a ban on selling new rabbits.*

Here at the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund we’re calling for a nationwide amnesty on the breeding and selling of new rabbits. We’d love you to Adopt Don’t Shop. This message is even more important as Easter approaches.

Rabbit owners and rescue centres agree with over 98% of those surveyed in both groups supporting a complete ban until the rescue crisis is over.

Rabbits are one of the most misunderstood pets people can have. They need the company of other rabbits. They need much more space than most people think and can live 8-10 years. We desperately need an amnesty on breeding until this crisis is behind us and the animals needing homes have found great owners. We need to ease the burden on adoption centres. I would urge anyone choosing a pet, especially rabbits to research carefully and make sure you can look after these wonderful animals.”


Rehoming Rabbits
The Colonel

Supporters of the RWAF Breeding Amnesty Campaign

We are delighted that our breeding amnesty campaign and petition to change the existing inadequate legislation is being supported by not only other welfare organisations but classified sites too.

We are encouraged that Preloved and Gumtree have given our request for a breeding and sales amnesty serious consideration and are supporting it over this Easter period and adding more information and care advice to their websites.

“We stand with The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund’s demand for a change in legislation to ensure rabbit breeders require the same licensing as dog breeders. This important step will help to prevent rabbits from being subjected to cruelty and poor welfare.”

“We are pleased to support the RWA&F breeding amnesty campaign and would urge anyone thinking of getting rabbits to do plenty of research first and consider adopting from one of our many centres across England and Wales rather than buying from a pet shop or online.”

“Raystede backs RWAF campaign for change in legislation to improve rabbit welfare.

“RWAF is demanding a change in legislation to ensure rabbit breeders require the same licensing as dog and cat breeders to ensure rabbits are no longer subjected to poor welfare.”

Burgess Pet Care. Care more

“Rabbit rescue centres throughout the UK are in crisis, as they face an unprecedented rise in abandoned and mis-treated rabbits. These rescues, and all of their staff, do an incredible job and we would always encourage would-be owners to ‘adopt not shop’, as recommended by RWAF. Rabbits are incredibly special animals, and make lovely pets, so we are keen to see as many UK bunnies happily rehomed as possible.

“As the organisation behind the delivery of Rabbit Awareness Week each year, the Burgess Pet Care team cares deeply about the welfare of the nation’s rabbits. Therefore, we are very proud to work with and support RWAF in their tireless efforts to protect rabbits all year round.”

“As a website that allows the rehoming of animals, we take the responsibility of animal welfare incredibly seriously. We work closely with organisations such as Pet Advertising Advisory Group, British Veterinary Association, and RWAF. Working with this panel of experts helps to ensure Preloved’s policies put animal welfare first.”

“As part of our commitment to animal welfare we’re working with the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF), the UK’s leading rabbit welfare charity.”

“Please join Hoppy Pets in supporting the RWAF, rabbit rescues and the lives of rabbits across the country…”

“Blue Cross fully supports the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund’s call for the government to amend the current breeding legislation, and the rabbit breeding amnesty campaign. Rabbits need our help more than ever right now, and this change to licensing and approach to selling is necessary to help address the current crisis and improve rabbit welfare.”

Join us today!

Let’s get together to help more rabbits live happy, contented lives.

Be part of something bigger that’s making a difference nationwide.

Join us today!

Adopt Don’t Shop.

It’s much more responsible.

  • Rabbit Rescue Centres’ are overwhelmed and in crisis. They need time to rehome the rabbits without more litters adding to the problem.
  • RWAF’s Welfare Officers report an increase of 77% of rabbits for sale online, with new breeders constantly appearing.
  • Mis-sexing rabbits leads to unwanted litters. Two can quickly become 15, as the doe rabbit is able to get pregnant immediately after giving birth.
  • Neutering and vaccinating 15 rabbits could cost around £5,000.
  • There’s no legal requirement for pet shops to guarantee the sex of baby rabbits. There’s even less protection for anyone who buys a rabbit online, or from a neighbour.
  • The cost of living crisis is also driving the boom, as households struggle to afford food, equipment and welfare.
  • A lack of non-urgent vet appointments during the pandemic delayed pet rabbits being vaccinated and neutered. This has compounded the rise in litters.
Find your local Rabbit Rescue

How rabbit adoption works.

  1. Most rescue centres might even want to visit your home to and see where the rabbits will live and ask you some questions, before letting you to adopt rabbits. This makes sure you fully understand what a commitment it is and what level of welfare is needed.
  2. Some rescue centres might even want to speak to your vet before letting you to adopt rabbits. This makes sure you fully understand what a commitment it is and what level of welfare is needed.
  3. To make sure your home’s safe and comfortable for rabbits, the rescue centre may like to visit your home.
  4. Some rescue centres may charge an adoption fee. This helps fund the important work they do and covers the costs of neutering and vaccinations.

Take a look at our case studies.

So far this year we’ve taken in 200 rabbits, it’s the same as this time last year, but the waiting list has gone from 20 to 100. We’ve never had a waiting list featuring more than 30 rabbits. This time last year we’d rehomed 142 rabbits, but we’ve only been able to rehome 110 this year. It’s because people are still buying new rabbits from breeders or pet shops rather than going to rescue centres.

For rescue centres, it’s been incredibly hard over the last couple of years and sadly, we’re in a worse position than ever! Over the last month we’ve had 136 emails or phone calls regarding surrendering one or more rabbits and just 23 about adoption.

Adoptions are down by 60% in comparison to last year. Despite closing our waiting list, we’re still receiving multiple intake enquiries every day. Our waiting list still has over 200 rabbits on it.

Without adoptions we simply have no capacity to help urgent cases let alone the huge number of people looking to surrender their unwanted pets. So far this year we’ve been contacted by an incredible number of people who’ve found stray rabbits. A whopping 20 times the pre-COVID amount. We’re now in the position where we’re also unable to help vet practices by taking on stray rabbits whose owners can’t be found. This is absolutely heart-breaking.

This year, we’ve managed to offer space to 26 farm rabbits who, without space would have faced certain death along with 22 strays and 3 pet rabbits that would have otherwise been taken to the vets to be put to sleep.

We’re worried things are going to get worse, and with the cost of living crisis, fewer people are in a position to adopt or donate.

*Research conducted by RWAF on SurveyMonkey with 2,336 rabbit owners and veterinary practitioners during October & November 2022.

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