Creating better tomorrows for all pet rabbits


Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.

RWAF Animal Welfare Officer 2020 report from Mark Dron

“The following is the report from Mark, our fabulous Animal Welfare Officer, who has worked absolutely above and beyond what we could have expected from him in 2020. The report speaks for itself, and we are so very fortunate to have Mark on our side. We can only continue this work if we can fund Mark’s post, so any donations to support our work are always put to good use. “You can donate via our helpline or website”, The RWAF.

2020 was a very unusual year for everyone, and the work that I would normally undertake was massively impacted by the three 2020 Lockdowns, and the huge impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on how people lived their lives.

However, far from reducing the workload of the AWO, the fact that many people lived their lives online, and shifted their businesses and shopping habits to online platforms, actually saw a noticeable increase in the amount of breeders advertising and selling online, and thus a similarly noticeable increase in casework and referrals made to other agencies.

2020 in figures (cases by month)

Total cases raised355
Previous cases raised total (2019)107

Increase in cases: 248 (69.9%)

Types of Cases

As you will be aware, whilst carrying out enquiries for the RWAF, there are occasions where other offending is identified by the AWO. Where this happens, details and information are always recorded and passed to the appropriate enforcement agencies.

In 2020 the offending profile was as follows:

Animal welfare offences, including licencing283
CITES (endangered species) offences8
Currency offences1
Red diesel offences4
Firearms (these all form part of wider offending usually involving illegal hunting6
Illegal hunting offences (including hare-coursing)21
Food safety1
Fraud Act (2006)18
Money laundering2
Illegal tobacco1
Medicines and medical devices1
Modern Slavery1
Road Traffic Act1
Cycle theft1
Fuel theft1
Unlicenced dog breeding1
Video recordings offences1


As can be seen, the largest area of concern in 2020 related to the AWO’s primary duties which involve identifying unlicensed pet sellers (usually rabbit breeders, but there are other areas of concern that have impacted on the casework), with fraud, illegal hunting, firearms and endangered species issues accounting for 53 case referrals in 2020.

The RWAF can only continue the work of the AWO if we can fund Mark’s post, so any donations to support our work are always put to good use.

Geographical Spread in 2020

Cases in 2020 were largely located in the UK, with the highest proportion of traders being in England, followed by Wales then Scotland; but my enquiries also took in issues in Austria, Hong Kong, China and the USA.

Geographical Enquiries

Hong Kong1

Geographical Spread in 2020

Cases in 2020 were largely located in the UK, with the highest proportion of traders being in England, followed by Wales then Scotland; but my enquiries also took in issues in Austria, Hong Kong, China and the USA.

Local authorities80
HMRC and other Government agencies75
Police UK and overseas8
Other agencies35
Total referrals in 2020198

Breakdown of case disposal:

Cases finalised with a referral198
Cases closed with no further action possible with the information available95
Cases carried over to 2021 (still ongoing)62


95 (26.8%) of the cases identified and commenced could not be progressed, usually because it proved impossible to trace them, or when the investigation did progress there was insufficient evidence to warrant further action.

Of the 355 cases raised in 2020, 198 (55.8%) were carried through to some form of resolution and 62 (17.5%) are ongoing.

Special projects and notable work

It was noted in July 2020, that a selling platform that had previously been virtually devoid of rabbit sales had suddenly exploded with new breeders; this was Free-ads a platform similar to eBay and other sites, whereby used items could be offered for sale. Amongst the commodities offered were a massive array of animals, including rabbits.

I carried out a special project (which is now in its final month of activity) targeting sellers on this platform; the immediate notable and interesting factor identified from this project was the preponderance of new traders identified (by which we mean those who have started breeding in 2020), and this has shown a marked increase in activity.

The project has also provided us with many more in-roads into activity in Scotland and Wales, which will form the basis of a sizeable project in 2021.

Through links in to volunteering with the Angling Trust/EA on Fishery crime, we have also managed to make connections with local Police Forces in the South East, which has enabled us to find contacts in rural crime teams who are happy to receive and deal with intelligence relating to Hare Coursing, which has seen a massive increase in the Winter months of 2020.

I also obtained the Animal Welfare Inspection qualification in 2020, as well as attending a number of other courses which have enabled me to provide a wider base of assistance to the RWAF’s Senior Management Team.


2021 has started in much the same manner as the majority of 2020, in Lockdown and still plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic; it is however shaping up to be another busy year and the following work is planned:

  1. We already have 43 cases open in the book to be researched, an
    increase of 18 on this time last year.
  2. Geographical Intelligence Project looking at Wales, Scotland, Northern
    Ireland and the Isle of Man.
  3. More liaison with Rural Crime Teams as contacts can be made.
  4. Resumption of observation and visit programme once Lockdown is eased.
  5. Planned increase in referral activity provided the pace of identification of breeders and their locations can be maintained.
  6. Possibility of closer-working with a new charity that deals primarily with animal cruelty matters (The Animal Protection Service) who have a presence in the South East and elsewhere in the UK, and while they largely deal with Dogs and Puppy Farming, are also looking to diversify across different pet animal species.

The RWAF Helpline number has now changed (Photo credit R MacVicar)

Reminder to the change of our Helpline number

Please note our new helpline number! 0191 933 9000 is now the telephone number for contacting the RWAF.

We have moved away from the old 0845 number. This means that the new 0191 number may be free for people to call if they have free minutes with their call plans (08 numbers are usually not included in these).

Please remember that we cannot give health advice via the helpline – you need to contact your own vet for that.

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