We have been asked whether it is safe to keep rabbits in the same area as poultry, primarily chickens. We don’t advise this for several reasons
Dietary needs are different. Poultry birds need grain feeds. This is high calorie and low on fibre. It’s a completely unsuitable diet for rabbits, will cause obesity and doesn’t provide the dietary fibre they need to keep teeth worn correctly nor to keep the gut moving properly
Water is generally fouled by birds. Rabbits need to have a constant supply of fresh water and if they are sharing living quarters with chickens etc that will not be possible as it will become contaminated with faecal matter
Salmonella is a major problem with poultry. Whilst rabbits are reasonable resistant to it, it is nevertheless an unacceptable risk
Hens and particularly ducks turn grass into bare earth or mud quickly. This is removing a valuable food source from rabbits and turning the area they live on into something potentially harmful
There is potential for injury and there are anecdotal tales of this happening
For these reasons we recommend that rabbits are not housed with poultry species
There is further information on this topic in the BSAVA Rabbit Manual. It states that where birds and rabbits are housed together, large psittacines (parrot species) may cause trauma to rabbits, although in most cases where rabbits share an aviary with birds the birds are more commonly smaller members of the parrot group and also other perching birds.
It is not common for micro-organisms to be able to transfer directly between avian and mammalian species, but if it does happen in one bird or mammal, the others in the group should be suspected of being infected also. This is particularly the case with intestinal diseases and fungal skin conditions.
Where hens and rabbits are kept together, the coccidian affecting each animal are different and should not cause problems to the other species but the main health problems are as mentioned above.
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund – Animal Welfare Officer Update – June 2019 to December 2019
We are so very lucky to have Mark working with us. He has absolutely thrown himself into this role and is serious about improving rabbit welfare. He has undertaken training of his own accord, and turns up at locations to follow up leads. Initially this post was funded by Pets Corner, and we are very grateful to them for getting this project off the ground for us. We now fund this project ourselves, and we are always grateful for donations that can help keep this project going.
The software that Keith Hinde developed for us is now being used by many other organisations. Here is an update from him:
“Since our little project started collecting rabbit ads from a small selection of UK sites, things have expanded somewhat!
“In the UK and Ireland, we are now collecting ads for dogs, cats, fish, horses, reptiles and (of course!) rabbits from no fewer than 11 different sites. To date, we have collected 2.2m adverts in the UK and Ireland, of which 208,698 are for rabbits. 2020 should see us add additional sources, as well as engage with stakeholders and enforcement agencies to broaden the depth and availability of the data.
“In terms of international efforts, we have run pilot projects for the EU and have active projects in both the USA and Canada, with more planned for 2020”.
Mark Dron, RWAF Animal Welfare Officer, updates us on his work over the last six months:
“This has been a busy few months with plenty of reactive and proactive work to keep me occupied.
“I recently received training relating to intelligence research, which will enable me to further professionalise the intelligence-handling work of the role, and I have recently made in-roads into liaison and joint-working with several South-East Environmental Health and Trading Standards Departments, which should assist the dissemination of intelligence to the right areas quickly, which can only serve to improve how we action Animal-Welfare intelligence.
“In addition to proactive and reactive enquiries, and attempts to identify the physical locations of ‘breeders’ in and around the South East, I have also been maintaining my watch on internet sales platforms; in so doing I have continued to build up a picture of the size and scale of online sales and sellers, helped by Hindesight’s sales monitoring software and the use of open source research tools.
“As well as intelligence and complaints from the public and RWAF members, I have also received information identifying restaurants in two London boroughs from which it was alleged rabbit-meat of dubious origin was being used to create various dishes that were popular locally. This led to observations and surveillance, as well as considerable open-source research and ultimately referral of two businesses to environmental health food safety officers for further investigation.
“The last six months have seen a marked increase in the amount of sellers identified on internet platforms, which include Pets 4 Homes, Gumtree and Facebook; the amounts are so large in fact that I have had to adopt a triage system, cross-referring my records with the Hindesight trawl data and prioritising investigations based on more than three advertisements a month, otherwise it would be virtually impossible to keep track of the enquiries.
“Since June, I have started over thirty full investigations, many of which are still in hand or have resulted in referrals to the RSPCA, Local Authorities, and in many instances HMRC, where it is likely that the earnings potential represents a likelihood of income suppression and tax evasion.
“My open source enquiries have also brought me into contact with some emerging animal welfare and health issues, that I have been able to highlight to HQ, which includes the presence of unlicensed Cannabis- derived animal medicines in the UK market, many of which appear to be freely available on the internet, both domestically and as postal imports.
“My current workload includes a number of outstanding Freedom of Information enquiries relating to possible breeders in various South Eastern council areas, which is where I usually start my enquiries into possible online breeders. If someone holds a licence, there is little point in continuing enquiries other than where definite welfare or health concerns exist.
“2019, as a whole, has seen an increase, not only in work relating to unlicensed sales, but also the unlicensed use of rabbits and other small mammals for entertainment purposes. This has resulted in my first referrals to councils for this phenomenon. I suspect this sudden burst of activity relates to provisions within the revamped Animal Welfare regulations, that relates to the licensing of activities involving animals.
“My work continues to impinge upon other areas of potential criminality, and I have been involved in a referral to Action Fraud of an international fraudster offering dogs and monkeys for sale via local sales sites, which do not exist, resulting in considerable losses for some, as well as product counterfeiters, and what appears to be an illicit fuel supply site in the wilds of rural Kent, which came to light as a result of enquiries into a possible local rabbit breeder.
“It is important in this role to remember that crimes rarely happen in isolation, and that rabbit breeding could just be the tip of the iceberg.
“In other news, I have also been enlisted by HQ to assist with welfare enquiries in the ‘Ask the Expert’s’ section of Rabbiting On, which has given me a few opportunities to exercise my grey matter and legal knowledge in the last six months.
“In closing, please remember that I welcome referrals from RWAF members and the public, and any information you may have is always gratefully received and acted upon where possible. The information you hold could well be the missing part in a bigger jigsaw, so please never think that it is too trivial; please also remember, however, that if your information relates to a crime in progress then you should always call the Police on 999”.
Getting ‘On The Hop’ into libraries
In November we were contacted by one of our Bournemouth members, who had undertaken to get our ‘On The Hop’ booklet into her local libraries, to ensure members of the public could access accurate and correct rabbit information. She wrote to us initially, and then set about contacting Chief Librarians in the counties around where she lives, Bournemouth, Dorset, Wiltshire, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bristol. The results have been tremendous. Copies of our ‘On The Hop’ booklet, which we have provided free of charge, have been placed in every branch, in those areas, so they can have their own reference copy. Now, she has turned her attention to some other areas in the south too.
We are happy to extend this across the whole UK. If people are willing to write to the Chief Librarian in your area. Please copy us in if you email them (email@example.com), so we can keep up with progress. Let’s get good, up to date, accurate and kind information out there, so that rabbit owners care for their rabbits correctly.
We are kicking off the new decade with a few projects. Some we will be able to tell you about later this year, but there are two that we are delighted to tell you about now.
Firstly, we are shortly going to be launching a petition regarding rabbit housing. We have worked with Dr Laura Dixon on this (she was part of the team that conducted some research on rabbit housing for the RSPCA, and is a member of our ‘RWAF Expert Panel’), so we know the petition is based on the most up-to-date research and evidence. This is really important. We will be gathering signatures for this from vets and other professionals, and then asking retailers to remove anything below current welfare guidelines from sale.
Enclosures that are too small for rabbits lead to decreased activity, behavioural restriction and increased stress, and by association can also lead to an increased risk of obesity and skeletal problems. Rabbits will increase their activity levels, interact more with their environment and increase the height of rearing behaviours when provided with appropriate sized enclosures. Rabbits will also work for access to increased space, showing that larger space areas are important to them. As a result, being housed in enclosures that are too small will negatively impact a rabbit’s mental and physical well-being. A survey of rabbit housing retailers found that 60.5% of one-storey hutches available for purchase did not even meet the legal minimum requirements for meat rabbits and 91.5% of these hutches did not meet the RWAF size recommendations. There are currently no legally-binding guidelines on how pet rabbits should be housed. Therefore we are asking to have these inadequately sized one-storey hutches removed from commercial sales.
The other news is that we are hosting a ‘Rabbit Welfare day’ in June.
Rabbits are all too often bottom of the agenda, and we want to raise their profile and raise awareness of the many issues they face. Richard Saunders and Rae Todd have worked with our lovely Patron, Dr Emma Milne, who is well known and respected for her welfare work, to put a great agenda together, to cover as many issues as possible in one day. We have a great line up and we will be inviting delegates from other welfare organisations, the pet industry, breeders and DEFRA in the hope that we can put rabbits top of the agenda and come up with some solutions to improve their welfare.
A message from our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Richard Saunders
We are aware of lots of comments regarding cardboard at the moment.
Cardboard toilet and paper towel roll inners can be very useful as an enrichment tool, and many many rabbit owners use boxes filled with hay and with holes cut inside, or toilet roll inners stuffed with hay etc without problem, and have done for years, because we didn’t have the vast array of toys to chose from that we have now. Cardboard boxes filled with bedding are useful for extra insulation in the winter. Cardboard boxes with 2 holes cut in them are useful as a bolt hole for the rabbits to feel safe.
Obviously as rabbit owners, if you see your rabbits eating a lot of the cardboard, rather than just enjoying destroying it, then remove any cardboard items, and consider seeking veterinary advice.
As a Specialist Vet, I see rabbits eating both appropriate and inappropriate fibrous and indigestible materials when they have GI problems, and this may be a sign of such issues. As with “hairballs” it’s often that the fur, hair, cardboard etc is in the gut in large amounts BECAUSE the GI tract is moving slowly, not causing the problem. What I am saying here is that when the rabbit starts to become ill, they often eat things that are not appropriate, and the cardboard or hairball is in the gut because of the gut slowdown, and is not the cause of it. Of course, there are certainly rabbits out there (as with dogs etc), who definitely eat things to excess, inappropriately, and in such cases, in any species, it’s sensible to prevent a problem by not allowing access to the material in question.
So let your rabbits enjoy their cardboard toys, but as with any toy, be sensible and monitor them. There are lots of things that you can give your rabbits to actually chew and eat that are safe such as apple branches, willow branches, hazel branches and forage trays.
Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc FRSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) DipECZM(ZHM) MRCVS; RCVS Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine (Mammalian); European Specialist in Zoological Medicine (ZHM); RWAF Veterinary Specialist Adviser
We know it can be hard to find pet-friendly rental accommodation.
We hear frequently of people having to give up their much loved pets when moving into rented property. This is very distressing for owners and can also place huge burdens on animal rescues who very often have to try and accommodate space for pets when owners are faced with landlord ultimatums and time constraints for rehoming of their pets or the real possibility of having to give up their rental home.
The good news is things are gradually improving and one of the big reasons for this is the introduction of Pet CV’s
A Pet CV can be a great help in providing Landlords with added information and the reassurance they need that you and your rabbits will make great tenants.
The RWAF has put together a brief thoughts list of areas for you to consider together with an online Pet CV Builder which can either be completed on line and exported to PDF or a download version which can be printed and completed manually.
Renting With Rabbits – A Landlord’s View
Renting property is a risky business.
Landlords rent property to complete strangers and there is no doubt that in some instances landlords have been left with out of pocket expenses as a result of tenants leaving property with serious pet damage.
Landlords also have to adhere strictly to government legislation in regards to rental deposits which can results in very nervous landlords in terms of being able to ensure costs can be recovered for pet damage to property.
However, many landlords are coming around to the idea that not all pets are equal when it comes to potential property damage.
Many landlords are becoming more open to the idea that a well-presented Pet CV can illustrate evidence of a responsible pet owner and reassurance that your pet rabbit is supervised and well behaved.
Considerations Indoor v Outdoor Rabbits
We have detailed below some thought provoking ideas which can be areas of concern for landlords – it’s a great idea to give planning time to these areas and think how you can incorporate solutions and ease your landlord’s concerns. We have detailed a few typical scenarios which may arise together with some possible solution ideas as follows: –
Landlord Concern: Rabbit will dig resulting in an unsightly lawn Reassurance: Rabbits graze area will be rotated and supervised. Have dedicated grazing area with under-grass mesh. Rabbit will be housed on concrete area with grazing box.
Landlord Concern: Rabbit husbandry Reassurance: Responsible welfare standards will be followed to ensure rabbits are kept in a clean environment.
Landlord Concern: Waste & soiled bedding removal Reassurance: Give Assurances that all waste will be regularly removed and will not build up. Rabbit area will be kept tidy so as not to attract vermin.
(Check local refuse collection regulations to ensure the council’s Environment Department doesn’t have restrictions, and if they have, what arrangements need to be made)
Landlord Concern: Rabbit will chew timber skirtings and electric cables, strip wallpaper Reassurance: Rabbit will have restricted supervised play. Timber skirtings, cables and wallpaper will be protected wherever possible.
Landlord Concern: Rabbit hair will transmit to carpets and furniture. Reassurance: Reassure a quality vacuum regularly used. Rabbit is regularly groomed outdoors to prevent build up. Consider professional carpet clean on leaving property and/or additional deposit to cover carpet clean.
Home Search Under Way?
Plan ahead and give yourself the time you need to research pet friendly landlords. If possible, build in some flexibility regarding your property type and the area in which you want to live.
Try and adopt a calm and friendly can-do attitude with your landlord and try not to get frustrated if they decline, it is after all their decision but hopefully a well thought-out approach may help you and your landlord work together to look at solutions to initial concerns.
A reference from your previous landlord can provide reassurance of your rabbit’s good behaviour and ease of maintenance. Include photographs of your rabbit and accommodation. Your vet may be able to provide an additional reference regarding your rabbit’s general health in that your pet is free from fleas and undergoes regular health checks. Any additional pet references can of course be included with your CV or separately.
Landlords will understandably have concerns regarding damage caused by rabbits kept as pets both indoor and outdoor. Particularly for indoor rabbits, flea infestations and rabbit dander and coat accumulations leading to dirty carpet and possible future tenant allergies will also be a worry for landlords.
Try negotiating a mutually agreeable increased deposit to cover the cost of any damage and offer to pay for a professional house clean when you move out. You may need to consider that some landlords may ask for a non-refundable up front deposit to cover house cleaning.
If you unable to keep your rabbit……….
Always plan and allow yourself plenty of time to plan for the rehoming of your pet.
You will want to do the very best you can to ensure your rabbit’s future welfare. Try and give rescue centres as much notice as possible as most rescues will have a waiting list for rabbits awaiting rehoming.
If you are rehoming your rabbit direct then please ensure you follow welfare guidelines here on our website: –
If you are already in rented accommodation try negotiating with your landlord and show evidence that you are actively seeking to rehome your pet. By doing this your landlord may show empathy and allow you sufficient time to ensure you find your rabbit a suitable home or rescue space.
Now you are ready to create your Rabbit Pet CV – don’t forget to include as much information as you can to promote reassuring responsible pet ownership for your landlord.
This post is also available in Word format, link below
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Animal Welfare Officer Update July 2018 to January 2019
Following on from the Spring 2018 decision by Pets Corner to finance the Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) initiative for another year, this has been a very busy six months.
Given the scale of the issue across the country, reactive work has come to the fore, with proactive work being logistically more problematic, unless issues are identified in areas local to the AWO’s home base.
This has been a busy period with a steady input of reactive work to keep me occupied, some from concerned RWAF members and staff and some from members of the public, but as ever the lion’s share of the raw data has come from the Hindesight net monitoring software, which provides me with details of prolific advertisers and breeders using an array of internet sales platforms. As with any investigation utilising raw data, many of these fall at the early stages, but some are capable of being developed in to actionable intelligence referrals for enforcement authorities.
I have also been involved in contributing to various UK Government consultations regarding animal welfare, and completed a useful course relating to animal viruses with a view to better understanding the risks posed by RVHD2 etc. in the rabbit breeding community.
In my last report I summarised enquiries relating to an individual based in London, who is known to the RWAF and other rabbit welfare groups for some pretty strange ideas about how to raise and care for rabbits. This individual has been using a website and PayPal to raise money using tactics and ‘borrowed’ slogans and phrases that might convince those prepared to donate that they were making a contribution to bona-fide rabbit charities, while this individual had been barred by the Charity Commission back in the early 2000s. The issue has worsened in the last few months and after further enquiries based on new intelligence, a full fraud crime complaint has been completed and passed the individual’s local Police Service via the Action Fraud route, for their action.
A number of breeders and online traders have been successfully referred to their local authorities and to the tax authorities in this period, as well as further work to identify a geographical pattern for breeders, based on stated and identified locations.
A particular case study in this period involved an individual identified in a small riverside town in Essex, who is breeding and trading on a massive scale from her home address. She uses Facebook and other platforms to advertise, and breeds and keeps her rabbits in a converted outbuilding at the rear of her terraced home. She has diversified from breeding and selling rabbits to also selling accessories ranging from feed to straw and toys. Having been identified and visited to confirm the information, it was clear that her set-up was both professional and sizeable, bringing in estimated revenues that would certainly put her on the radar of HMRC.
Sadly, when she was reported to the local authority they stated that they had visited her and since she was only selling rabbits bred from her own pets as a ‘hobby’, she was not covered by pet shop licensing legislation, and they therefore declined to take the matter any further.
As such, following the guidelines of the Capone Campaign she was referred to the Tax Authorities and it will be for her to indicate how her ‘hobby’ income impacts on what she declares on her tax returns.
I also identified an individual in rural Kent who claims to be a hobby breeder, yet has a massive web presence as a breeder and seller not only of rabbits but also hutches, food, toys and other rabbit accessories, on a scale that has led to her having to open her own premises on a trading estate to sell and display her stock.
This is clearly more than a hobby, and a matter that has been referred to the trader’s local authority regarding her lack of a pet shop licence as well as to HMRC regarding her income.
In August, I received anonymous intelligence that a premises near Peterborough was involved in breeding rabbits for online and pet shop sale, in atrocious conditions, many of which had died of disease and starvation, and were being placed on the market in a diseased state. The informant was very worried that they and their partner might be identifiable from the intelligence, since they were very close to the people involved. This fact led to them only providing skeletal intelligence of a building description and a rough village location, with one extra piece of information leading to a cul-de-sac. After several hours of street view mapping analysis, I was able to provide local authorities with two potential locations, supported by the very brief intelligence provided, and a request that they follow up the matter through their wildlife crime partnerships.
RWAF advise the public that they only purchase their rabbits and other animals from reputable rescue centres. Sales through online platforms resulting in cash transactions and no receipts mean no recourse for in the event of a problem and almost pure profit for unscrupulous traders.
Other unusual issues reported or identified in this period have been reports of a beggar in Leicester Square, Central London, who rather than using the traditional dog to attract passers-by, is using rabbits in shopping baskets to entice the crowds and make his money. This is being looked at with contacts from the local Police Station.
Additionally, I have identified seven traders involved in the online trade of illicit items ranging from products derived from endangered species to counterfeit software, toys and DVDs. These traders have all been referred to the appropriate enforcement agencies, as has a suspected drug factory identified during a rural observation visit in Kent.
One final point of interest was my ongoing work relating to a ‘homeopathic’ rabbit remedy manufacturer and seller, reported by head office. Having confirmed that medicinal claims were being made particularly in relation to RVHD2, this individual was traced to a business premises and has been referred to the Veterinary Medicines enforcement organisation for further action.
Here at RWAF we are often asked our opinion on things like harnesses, clothes for rabbits and this week taking rabbits out in pushchairs!
It is impossible to cover every eventuality that owners might think up for their pet rabbits, but to try and cover as many as possible we would say that rabbits should be neutered and vaccinated, fed a hay based diet, and kept in compatible pairs and with 24/7 access to a large safe exercise area with a shelter. We recommend a minimum area of 3mx 2m x 2m high for two average sized rabbits, regardless of them being kept inside or outside. Supervised free range time in a safe garden or bunny proofed areas of the house are good in addition to this but should not be instead of.
There is no benefit at all to a rabbit, as a prey animal, to be dressed up in clothes, to wear a harness, to be pushed in a push chair, or taken on an unnecessary car ride at all, in fact they can be detrimental to their welfare by causing them stress, so we do not approve of these things.
Although the RWAF is not a rescue, at times we are made aware of a situation that we cannot ignore. Last month we were involved in such a situation in Scotland which involved the closure of a large commercial breeding facility. We worked closely with all involved and were able to get the remaining 37 rabbits to safety. They were mainly mums and babies.
As always a successful rescue relies on team work, so a huge thanks goes to the brilliant team at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Hospital for Small Animals exotics team. Special thanks going to vets Jenna Richardson and Kevin Eatwell for allowing us to fill their wards and for health checking all of the rabbits and starting them off on a vaccination and neutering programme.
Huge thanks also to the incredible volunteers we rallied locally who offered short term foster homes to acclimatise the rabbits to love and comfort and to the rescues that have offered them spaces, in particular our friends at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care who took a whopping 13 rabbits for us.
RWAF are funding all the health checking, treatments, vaccinating and neutering cost of all the rabbits and so we are asking for your help!
If you can donate anything at all to help with these costs we would be very grateful.
Please tick for Gift Aid too if you are eligible. Both fundraising sites will process it and it adds a further 25% to your donation from HMRC at no extra cost to you
We expect this rescue to cost into the thousands, however if there are any surplus funds from this fundraiser over and above our costs, we will add it to our campaign funds which you can read about here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/
As rabbit owners know a binky is a rabbit’s happy dance. In fact it demonstrates joy in a-bun-dance. Rabbits will shake their heads, jump in the air, kick out, twist, even turn around in mid air, all to show joy and happiness. They need plenty of space all the time but especially so that they can binky.
To celebrate Binky Day 2018 we’ve made this video using clips and photos submitted by owners of some very happy bunnies. https://youtu.be/w_3vM_tA57Q
We hope you enjoy it and that you’ll send us your clips and videos next spring for next year’s Binky Day video.
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Rabbits sold online via classified ads in the what they did UK: when, why, and how many?
What they did
When Vikki Neville started her internship at the RWAF, the team were keen to investigate the problem of rabbit rehoming. Elaine Line and Keith Hinde had been collecting data on rabbits advertised via online classified websites for some time, which not only allowed them to count the number of rabbits rehomed online but also gave them the opportunity to look at the reasons why people were doing so. They trawled through the data, picking out the reasons the owner gave for rehoming their rabbit, and then looked for trends in the data that might hint at the real reasons for rehoming. They’ve just published their findings in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science – a peer-reviewed journal co-sponsored by the Animals & Society Institute (ASI) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
How many rabbits were advertised online?
They found that 7,315 different adult rabbits were advertised on the website Preloved in 2016 alone. The average age of these rabbits was 14 months, and most were less than two years old. The average lifespan of a companion rabbit is four to thirteen years (depending on size), so these rabbits were very much in the first flush of youth.
What reasons did people give for selling their rabbit?
The main reason people gave for giving up their rabbit was that they didn’t have enough time to care for the rabbit (21%), closely followed by issues with housing such as moving home (16%) and a change of circumstances (14%). In 10% of cases, the caregiver said that their child was no longer interested in the rabbit.
What does the data suggest is the real cause of rehoming?
When they looked at the number of rabbits advertised for free in each season, they noticed a significant spike in the number of rabbits advertised during the winter. There are several possible reasons for this. Firstly, most companion rabbits are housed outdoors, so in winter when the weather is cold and rainy, cleaning is likely to become an extra onerous task for most caregivers. Inclement winter weather could also influence how often caregivers interact with their rabbit; perhaps caregivers had great fun sitting in the garden with the rabbit in summer, but not so much in winter. It’s also possible that interest in the rabbit wanes after Christmas when children receive toys that they find more interesting than the rabbit.
Were there any findings that aren’t depressing?
Yes! They found that the total number of rabbits advertised online had decreased over the last few years. In September 2013, a voluntary scheme was launched in which advertisements on several UK classified websites, including those investigated in this study, which contravened the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) Minimum Standards were removed from the websites. So, it seems like this scheme has worked to reduce the number of advertisements. Of course, it’s possible that people are rehoming their rabbits through other websites that aren’t regulated or via other means.
It seems like many people don’t know what they’re getting in to when they purchase a rabbit. That’s why the findings suggest that education is key. Giving potential caregivers information about the lifespan of rabbits and their substantial husbandry requirements, especially in winter, might deter the purchase of rabbits by caregivers unable or unwilling to care for them in the long-term. Working to prevent the impulse purchase of rabbits could also be useful in reducing the number of rabbits rehomed. Implementing legislation and shifting human behaviour is a slow process, but highlighting the problem rabbits face in an academic journal is an important first step towards getting people to pay attention to the issues.
RWAF note: It was a pleasure to have Vikki as an intern and we are delighted that her time with us was so useful. We wish her luck for the future and we know that she is going to have a brilliant future ahead of her. Ref: Neville, V., Hinde, K., Line., Elaine., Todd, R., Saunders, R, A. (2018). Rabbit relinquishment through online classified advertisements in the United Kingdom: when, why, and how many? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.
Time flies: are you taking the time to protect your rabbits from flystrike?
Flystrike is often a rapidly fatal disease, caused by flies, notably ‘Green Bottles’, laying eggs on damp areas of a rabbit’s skin and fur. When these eggs hatch, the maggots can eat the flesh of the rabbit causing severe pain, tissue damage and infections, and many affected rabbits will go on to die. You probably know that flies and their maggots are more normally associated with things that are already dead, and they are commonly to be found around our dustbins. However, if pet rabbits are not kept in clean conditions, or are unable to keep themselves clean, they too can be affected by flystrike. When it occurs, it is a serious welfare concern. Fortunately however, it can be prevented.
Researchers at the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) based at the University of Liverpool have been investigating what puts rabbits at risk of flystrike. SAVSNET collects data from veterinary practices and labs across the UK to help further understand the diseases of our pet animals. SAVSNET worked with 389 veterinary practices right across the UK to collect information from over 30,000 rabbit consultations, identifying 205 rabbits that had been diagnosed with flystrike. It is well known that the flies that cause flystrike
are present at certain times of the year. SAVSNET has, for the first time, described the effect of seasonality on flystrike occurrence in rabbits. The research team found that flystrike was first recorded in the month of April, and almost 70% of cases occurred between June and August. In addition, for every 1°C rise in the average temperature, the risk of flystrike increased by 33%. Rabbits who were aged five years or more were almost four times as likely to have flystrike than younger rabbits, and unneutered does were over three times more likely to be affected than does that had been neutered.
Rachel Turner, a veterinary student who carried out the work as part of her veterinary undergraduate course said, “As well as confirming the seasonality of the disease and other risks, we can now use these results to warn owners when to check their rabbits for any signs of flystrike and treat their rabbits to prevent it.”
With 45% of the affected rabbits from the SAVSNET study either dying or being put to sleep, these risks are important for owners to keep in mind. There is lots of information available about measures to prevent flystrike, such as keeping rabbits and their environment clean, making sure rabbits do not become overweight (which reduces their ability to groom themselves), and most importantly, taking the time to check rabbits frequently for signs of dirty fur or flystrike. In addition, preventive treatments aimed at deterring flies from rabbit accommodation can be obtained from veterinary practices. If owners have any concerns, they are strongly advised to take their rabbit to see their vet immediately.
SAVSNET collects data from veterinary practices and laboratories so that researchers can help improve understanding about what makes pets ill. Find our more information at www.liverpool.ac.uk/savsnet and on Facebook and Twitter @savsnet.
Richard scoops prestigious award for dedication to rabbits
We are sure you will all join in saying huge congratulations to Richard. As our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Dr Richard Saunders has been recognised as an Animal Welfare Hero and been awarded the prestigious title of the Chris Laurence Vet of the Year at the 2018 Ceva Animal Welfare Awards.
Richard was nominated for his dedication to improving pet rabbit welfare, in particular the huge amount of work involved in getting a new vaccine into the UK to protect all pet rabbits against an emerging deadly disease (RVHD2). We all owe Richard a huge debt of thanks for his success with the vaccine. So far it is estimated that in the region of 70,000 rabbits have been vaccinated thanks to Richard.
Richard’s day to day work educating vets and clients on the needs of rabbits as pets has been as vital as his work on the vaccine. Rabbits are amongst the most neglected of pets, and people like Richard who raise awareness of the needs of the species, have a huge impact on the welfare of these hugely misunderstood pets.
No more ‘stress rabbits’ at Heathrow
At the start of the Easter holidays we were horrified to see that there were rabbits in the terminals, being offered as stress relief for travellers. Obviously a busy airport is no place for rabbits. Not only will this have been stressful for them, but the biosecurity risk was a real concern. We contacted the company that provided the rabbits and the local authority responsible for the airport and they began to investigate. We do have a contact at Heathrow airport and we also contacted them and discussed our concerns. We also shared our concerns on social media, where of course Heathrow was inundated with messages pointing out the obvious; it was a bad idea. We’re not exactly sure what did the trick but within an hour Heathrow had confirmed that they would cancel the event. Thanks to Heathrow for acting so swiftly and to everyone who contacted them.
Rabbits in the news
Pet Rabbit Welfare Guidance – Scotland
The RWAF is happy to have been involved with working on Pet Rabbit Welfare
Guidance, now available on the Scottish Parliament website. This is a great step forward in giving formal structures to ensure that pet rabbits are properly looked after throughout their lives: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/04/3112
The Healthy Pet Guide
We have had a very busy few weeks around Easter. Easter is
always a busy time for the media and we were really delighted to be invited on the BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ to discuss the Easter Amnesty. We then did a live interview for BBC Radio Gloucester and then a pre-recorded session for BBC radio Somerset.
We also had a great two-page spread in the ‘Healthy Pet Guide’, which was inserted in the Mail on Sunday, so had great reach, and also a brilliant one page article in ‘Yours’ magazine.
As if that was not enough, during the Easter holidays we worked with our friends from Burgess Pet Care on the set of This Morning (thank you to Runaround for providing the binky box and tunnels), and it was a really great piece promoting rescue rabbits. We were behind the camera making sure the right message was given to the millions of viewers.
From there we went straight to Birmingham to the CEVA awards where we celebrated Richard Saunders being recognised as a Welfare Hero for his huge amount of work involved in getting the RVHD2 vaccine into the UK.
We then spent two days with Burgess at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress, talking to veterinary professionals and launching Rabbit Awareness Week. It’s great to work with other such dedicated people.
Dunelm remove cage from sale
The power of social media worked again when we shared a small hutch for sale on Dunelm’s website. Dunelm very quickly removed it from sale and promised to look into their range. If you see something that worries you please share it with us on one of our social media platforms.
Once again this year Pets Corner, Pets at Home and Jollyes suspended sales of rabbits over the Easter period. Good news, especially with the release of Peter Rabbit in cinemas. We’d like to thank these retailers for taking part in the Easter Amnesty.
We have had a very busy few weeks. Easter is always a busy time for media and we have done three interviews for BBC radio, including BBC Radio 4, as well as having articles published in several magazines including the Mail on Sunday.
On Wednesday we worked with our friends from Burgess on the set of This Morning (thank you to Runaround for providing the binky box and tunnels) and it was a really great piece promoting rescue rabbits. We were behind the camera making sure the right message was given to the millions of viewers.
From there we went straight to Birmingham to the CEVA awards where we celebrated Richard Saunders being recognised as a Welfare Hero for the huge amount of work involved in getting the VHD2 vaccine in to the UK.
We then spent 2 days with Burgess at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) talking to Vet Professionals and launching Rabbit Awareness Week. It’s great to work with other such dedicated people.