“We here at the RWAF are aware of a number of posts regarding cases of RVHD2 following vaccination, and, whilst new information is constantly being obtained and updated, we wanted to make a statement.
Firstly, it is REALLY important to obtain that information, and to make sure it is being reported properly, to the correct authorities, and with as much detail as possible. Only then can accurate data be obtained and decisions made. Its possible to hear of the same case from multiple sources and forums, and equally, to not hear about some rabbits at all. So we do urge people to ask their vet to report any concerns about vaccine side effects or failure (or any drug adverse reaction) to both the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and to the drug/vaccine company directly. Reporting it to the company as well means that they can act more quickly, and may be able to offer advice and assistance. So far, both the VMD and Filavac have monitored the situation and not found higher than expected numbers of vaccine failures.
Secondly, it is important to realise that no vaccine offers 100% protection, and that sensible biosecurity measures should also be employed, especially after cases of RVHD2 have been suspected or confirmed in an area. And sadly some of those unprotected rabbits will succumb to the disease, even with a protective dose value of 90% for Filavac and sufficient antibody titre of ≥70% for Eravac.
Currently only about 14% of UK domestic rabbits are vaccinated against RVHD2, and that means that the level of protection in the community, or “herd immunity” is poor, making spread of the disease rapid and easy for the virus.Most rabbits (85%) have been vaccinated using Filavac, and so most vaccine failures reported online have been associated with this vaccine.
While we are aware that vaccine failures have been reported, we would urge owners not to stop vaccinating their rabbits, as the current vaccines are the best level of protection we have available. Please continue to report any problems, via your vets, to the VMD and the vaccine manufacturers.
Richard Saunders BVSc DZooMed MRCVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management
Keep your rabbits safe over Christmas. There’s a variety of dangers
Chewing the tree or its lighting cables. Real dangers. Whether you have a real or an imitation tree, put up a barrier around it and keep those electric cables where your bunnies cannot get to them
Holly and mistletoe are both very toxic. Make sure your beloved pets can’t get to either. If you have them, keep them both well away from rabbit accessible areas
Wrapping paper and the gifts themselves. Nobody wants a chewed present and of course ingesting that paper with its inks and possibly sometimes polymers too is very dangerous for rabbits, so keep gifts out of reach of bunnies
Eating too much of the wrong thing. We all eat some treats in the festive season, probably more than we should, but be careful not to let your rabbits get to anything that might be toxic to them or too much of what they might like. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and in fact is bad for most species including us. For rabbits, the sugars may well be the biggest problem, so as with other treats, keep them away from your rabbits and if you have appropriate treats for them – low carbs, no egg, no dairy – remember, they are still just that, treats, and should only be given in very small amounts. You don’t want to be taking your beloved rabbits to the emergency vet on Christmas afternoon!
Company, hustle and bustle – Christmas and New Year are times for families, visitors, people who generally wouldn’t be in contact with your rabbits, and likely not in large numbers. It’s often noisy as well. Remember this can be very confusing and sometimes frightening for your rabbits. They are prey animals, used to you and your immediate family so make a visitor-free zone where your rabbits can feel safe and can keep away from noise and bustle, won’t be handled inappropriately and won’t be fed the wrong things….and cannot escape out of your door when people are coming and going.
Sadly we are still receiving reports every single day of cases of sudden deaths. We know people getting this message will have ensured their rabbits have fully up to date vaccinations – both Nobivac (Myxo & RVHD1) plus either Filavac or Eravac (RVHD2) – but not everybody receives this, not everybody knows about our advice and there are very clearly a lot of rabbit owners out there still not vaccinating. Please share our new vaccination poster wherever you can. You can download it here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Vaccinate-Poster-new.jpg
Owners don’t all follow our social media, not all of them are aware of our website and sadly for whatever reason, aren’t getting proper advice from vets, so we’re asking you to find places to display the poster. Pet shops, vet waiting rooms, libraries, any shop/supermarket that sells rabbit food (ask them to display it beside the food), anywhere else you can think of that rabbit owners might see it, including any online social media you might visit.
This important information is being added to all emails. Please disregard if your rabbits have already been vaccinated with both Nobivac Myxo RHD and either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac.
There is a mutated strain of RVHD that is deadly, RVHD2. Unvaccinated rabbits don’t stand a chance against it. It is present all over the UK and vaccination against it is vital. Unfortunately the standard Nobivac combined vaccine doesn’t cover it, although that is still essential to protect against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. If your rabbits aren’t already vaccinated against it, what you need is either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac. Discuss frequency of vaccination with your vet. The two vaccines (Nobivac and the RVHD2 vaccine) should not be given at the same time, there should be at least 2 weeks between them. If you need to have this done and your vet doesn’t stock the vaccine, there is a map here that shows vets who do. Another tab on the same website shows reported cases, which we know only shows the tip of a very large iceberg, as this disease is very hard to recognise having few to no symptoms at all and so is generally unreported.
If you are in the sad position of losing a rabbit unexpectedly please let us know, along with the first part of your postcode so that we can notify the owner of this map http://rhd2map.buntools.org.uk/index.php?&p=cases and also our own social media followers. Another tab on the map site also shows vets who stock vaccine, useful information for us all.
We’ve been asked to share this survey. Chloe Macgeath, who is second year veterinary medicine student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is undertaking a research project. She says, “I have decided to do mine on rabbit behaviour, specifically looking at whether there is any behavioural differences between outdoor rabbits and those that kept entirely indoors and have no access to outdoor space. I will also look at the influence of other factors such as diet, sex and companionship.”
We’re very happy to see photos and videos from rescue and of those already in their forever homes, where they are finally able to exercise all the typical rabbit behaviours that they haven’t ever been able to previously. Such a very sad start in life for these lovely souls, but a great life for them now, at long last. We inevitably incurred significant bills – some had health problems, all needed to be vaccinated, all the adults neutered, and once the babies are old enough, we’ll be funding their neutering too, so if you haven’t already donated, please do. People have already been very generous and although we haven’t yet had the final bill, we estimate it to be about £3000. Even £1 will help though of course if you can manage more, that would be fantastic – and don’t forget Gift Aid if you pay Income Tax. That will bring us in an extra 25% direct from HMRC, at no cost to you.
Of course we can’t leave without reminding you to keep membership subscriptions up to date. We’ve been able to introduce Direct Debit for online subscription so you no longer need to have a PayPal account to have automatic renewals. You still can if you want, but Direct Debit costs us less per transaction (which helps keep down your membership subs costs) and doesn’t rely on you keeping your card details up to date with PayPal. You can renew here https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product-category/memberships/renewal-memberships/
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”.
It’s Welfare Wednesday again – this week we are reminding everyone to vaccinate their rabbits against both myxi and VHD, because this is the best protection we can give them,and both diseases are deadly. RWA members will receive the attached poster in the next issue of Rabbiting On – but it is also available on our website – please share and help us spread the word – “magic won’t protect our bunni…es, the trick is to vaccinate”
Myxi continues to rear its ugly head around the UK and I doubt it will ever go away. Reports come in daily from members.
VHD is the silent killer, but as our leaflet explains it is “Deadly, But Preventable “
In the last 4 weeks a confirmed report came in of a death from VHD in Burgess Hill West Sussex and from Burton On Trent and Warwick.. There is an unconfirmed report in the Nottingham area.
The virus can survive for up to 105 days in the environment, but this is at low temperatures , with a sliding scale of downward viral survival duration at higher temperatures. So this is the best time to have an outbreak. If your rabbits are not vaccinated, and want your bunnies to live a happy and healthy life, please have them vaccinated
RWA/F member and veterinary nurse Laura Slinger who works for the practice that admitted the VHD case told us . The VHD case was a 6 year old english butterfly, never vaccinated, found her Saturday morning collapsed and twitching – rushed in, bleeding from eyes, vulva and anus, abdomen full of blood – it really has hit home how many people continue to say ‘ah vaccination its not necessary anymore’ – it is the first VHD and I think the 4th domestic myxi case in my 12 year career so far, just terrible, really affected me! I’m not as tough as everyone says