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.

Finding a good rabbit vet within a reasonable distance is important.

A reminder that you can access the Rabbit Friendly Vet List via our website. However, please do make sure that you see the named vet (or vets) on the list! We are updating this list constantly.

The RWAF is keen to put owners in touch with rabbit savvy vets via our Rabbit Friendly Vet List. To be listed on the list, the vet practice completes a detailed questionnaire, and this includes nominating up to two named rabbit friendly vets . The questionnaire is based on their clinical experience, as well as the facilities of the practice. Richard Saunders, our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, reviews each questionnaire and will often go back to the practice to confirm any relevant details or ask further questions. As stated on our website, to benefit from the list, you must see the vets that are specifically named on the Rabbit Friendly List, not just any vet at that practice.

There have been some cases recently where members have been disappointed with their experience and reported them to us. In each of these cases, it was a different vet in the practice that was seen. We just wanted to make everyone aware of this. There are probably plenty of rabbit savvy vets out there but it is only the named individuals on our list that have gone through the qualification process, not every vet at the practice.

It is also worth noting that not every practice that applies makes the list. Some have been refused, or asked to review some aspects of their application and then reapply.

Update from Mark Dron, RWAF Rabbit Welfare Officer:

“September has been the busiest month yet. The project with Freeads has generated masses of data to review, and I intend keeping it open until November, so I suspect it will only get busier.

“It looks like there has been an increase in breeders and sellers during lockdown, and I have identified 18 totally new breeders who have cropped up in the period between March 2020 and September 2020. That is massive, and I suspect the number will increase as the project progresses.

“In relation to cases, I am looking at these now as any trader I identify who has multiple adverts, usually more than two at any one time, or more than two a month is the usual rule of thumb.

“Case-wise I am now counting cases as anything that takes more than two hours of my time in enquiries and follow-ups; we are now at 230 cases for 2020 – a lot of these are self-generated, although as you know there have been quite a few complaints to follow up this year as well”.

A huge well done to Mark for all the work he is doing. Mark passes ‘cases’ with evidence on to the relevant local authorities, the RSPCA, and HMRC where relevant. Unfortunately Mark’s herculean efforts do not always translate to the outcomes we would like, but it won’t stop him trying, and working hard to improve the lives of rabbits everywhere and to clamp down on back yard breeders.

Another enquiry we have had was regarding ‘rabbit rental’ schemes, which do not sound like they would benefit the rabbit at all. This basically involves someone renting out a rabbit, hutch and food for a day, week etc. Mark has done a lot of research into this and has found that there is unfortunately very little that can be done legally to prevent them.

They are not a pet shop, and they are not exhibiting the animals for reward, so there is no licensing issue; the only possible in-road would be a suggestion that the animal’s welfare needs would not be met, but anyone raising a complaint would need to be able to satisfy the best evidence rules on this to prove a case, and in order to do that the prosecuting body would need to show:

  1. The condition of the animal at the point of rental;
  2. The tenure of the rental and whether the animal’s need for food, water, shelter etc was being met throughout that tenure;
  3. The condition of the animal at the point of return. It would be massively labour intensive for any prosecutor to try to progress under this route, and without a licensing requirement it would be very difficult to bring any pressure to bear on the organisation that is renting the animals out.

The only potential enforcement route on this one would be that they mention a zoo, as zoos need a licence from their local authority. If it could be proven which zoo was doing this, it might be that you could persuade the local authority to visit and make an assessment, but there is nothing to be found in zoo licensing rules that prohibit renting out of animals.

So it looks like this would be something we would have to appeal to the general public not to support and hope that anyone considering doing this would take our advice and avoid it. If you do see any of these rental schemes advertised, please let us know.

Another line of work for Mark was to try to get someone removed from an online selling platform. A supporter contacted us with lots of screen shots of someone who was both buying and selling rabbits via a selling app. Mark presented this evidence to the app and they removed the user. If you do see something concerning like this please do let us know.

Change of helpline number

We have a new helpline number! 0191 933 9000 is the new helpline number.

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).

A reminder that we can not give health advice via the helpline, you need to contact your own vet for that.

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