It’s summer…are your rabbits cool dudes or hot, cross buns?

With summer well underway, we’ve had some stiflingly hot weather…how are your rabbits coping with the heat?

Even though rabbits originate from much hotter parts of Europe and North Africa, they are crepuscular, that is most active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, they would be able to hide from the more intense heat in underground burrows where the temperature varies by only a few degrees. Pet rabbits, especially those who live outside, are reliant on their owners to provide conditions where they can be safe and comfortable. Shade from direct sunlight is essential, so consider where your rabbit hutch or shed and run are situated. Is there any plant cover that will provide shade? A shrub or creeper will be a great help in keeping off the most intense rays of the sun. Plant a tree, but while you wait for it to grow and bush out, also plant something that is going to provide cover quickly, for example a Montana Reubens. Ensure your rabbits can’t get to it and eat it though.

Shade provided by a cover on the run and under a large bush. Make sure the rabbits can’t nibble anything harmful. The mesh allows a cool breeze

Is your hutch inside a shed? If not, that would be a good idea. Garden sheds can be fairly inexpensive – sometimes you might be able to get one from your local Freecycle or Freegle group – and that would provide an extra insulation against the sun, with the extra bonus of being somewhere to store rabbit possessions, winter insulation, somewhere you can sit with the buns, give them more sheltered living/exercise space and so on. Site it somewhere shady or plant some creeper/tree cover as mentioned above. Be wary though as sheds too can get very hot, so consider double-skinning it and putting insulation between the layers – cavity wall and roof insulation for rabbits. In fact, turf roofs provide excellent insulation and although you’d need to water them in the dryer parts of summer, they do a great job. Insulation keeps heat OUT as well as IN, so whatever you do along these lines for the summer will be of benefit in the winter months too.To keep the shed cool, you will need to keep the door open, so it’s a good idea to fit a wire screen to keep it secure but still let in the fresh air.

A shed with a mesh door for ventilation and under a shady tree. Shade also provided by the covers on the run and den pipe

FANS. These can be wind or solar powered, battery driven or connected to the mains. But be sure that if they are connected to a power source, your rabbits can’t get to those wires and nip them. Rabbits have a natural instinct for snipping things that look to them like tree roots. Use some hosepipe or trunking to cover wires and keep checking it…you’d be amazed just what buns are able to nibble their way through. Remember too that fans only move the air around and while that makes our skin feel cooler it doesn’t reduce the temperature of the air. So consider having the fan blowing over a frozen pop bottle and that will reduce the air temperature by a few degrees. But don’t aim a fan directly at a rabbit somewhere that it can’t get away, many of them find this very distressing.

Fill up plastic pop bottles with water and freeze them. Have a few so that some are re-freezing while one or two are in use. You can put one in the path of the fanned air to act as a mini-air conditioning system. Your rabbits might also like one to lie on to keep them cool. Cover them though so that your rabbits don’t have to be in direct contact with them. Visit Snugglebunnies for bottle covers in different sizes https://www.facebook.com/snugglebunniesfortheRWAF/?hc_ref=ARTUhdAVekTRQqYvYYENXPOEgNWi4mK8UxglYtocS7BFuuVie-fl1T7PtPU4TnWevUg You can buy Scratch and Newton ice pods too and Snugglebunnies heat pad covers fit those too. https://scratchandnewton.com/products/ice-pod

Once frozen, these will stay cool for hours. And if you cover an ice pod with the upturned large terracotta drip try from a plantpot, the temperature will remain low for longer. You can also freeze ordinary ceramic floor and wall tiles for hot buns to lie on and cool down. Some materials are naturally cool to the touch, marble for example – remember nothing’s too good for your rabbits!

Obviously always supply plenty of fresh cool water, as even though they only sweat through feet and tongue, a cool drink will make rabbits feel better, and some will even find it helpful to lie in a water dish. Rabbits can access much more fluid from a bowl than from a bottle so it’s best to provide both so they have the choice. Remember to check and refill regularly. If you do find a bun panting, it is in distress and should be brought immediately into a much cooler environment, but don’t dunk them in freezing water as the sudden temperature change could do untold harm and send their system into shock. If this was an emergency, they need to see a vet. Cool them as gently as you can by laying a damp towel over them to slowly reduce the temperature, and cover the carrier with a damp towel on the way to see a vet if you’re really worried, but generally just providing them with a much cooler space is best.

Have you somewhere they could safely tunnel underground? Could you sink wide pipes under your garden? Buns could keep lovely and cool in these, but always think about being able to get access to the rabbit – this is less advisable if your bun is already hard to catch.

FLIES. The horror of rabbit owners. Flies of course, lay eggs, and those hatch out into maggots, which literally eat their way into your rabbit’s flesh and organs – an often fatal condition for rabbits. If the eggs have been laid on your rabbit by a blowfly (a greenbottle or a bluebottle), then there is a very real danger of flystrike. So do all you can to keep flies away. Plant herbs that are thought to repel them, keep bun an dbedding/litter area scrupulously clean, buy a battery or solar powered bug zapper to hang in your shed, check your rabbits several times every day. If you have the slightest suspicion of flystrike, it is an emergency. Phone your vet and tell him or her what the problem is and get your rabbit there at once. Rather a false alarm in these circumstances than a dead rabbit. If your bun is prone to wetting itself or having caecal pellets stuck to fur, you need to work out the reason why and work with your vet on eliminating that…is your bun obese and unable to clean itself or to squat properly? Is there the possibility of arthritis? This is far more common than people realise in older rabbits. You can get products like Rearguard from your vet or from online pharmacies (no prescription needed). This product can be used if your rabbit is at risk of flystrike, as recommended by your vet. There are other products on the market. Rearguard works by preventing the maggots from developing mouth parts so they can’t eat your rabbits alive. It only needs to be applied at intervals of a few weeks. Other products need to be applied daily and are insect epellents/killers. But nothing is better than regular checks of your rabbits’ rear ends and scrupulous hygiene.

In summary, your buns need to be checked even more regularly in the hot summer months, and owners should always err on the side of caution. Best to take a bit more time than to have the unthinkable happen.

Shaped

We have had fantastic news from artist Seb Lester recently. He had contacted us around Christmas time and said that he intended to donate profits from the sale of his limited edition print ‘Shaped’ to our charity. We love the sentiment expressed in the print. How much our love for our wonderful rabbits has shaped us all!
 
Seb had made 160 prints and most have sold although some are still available. He is donating almost £870 to help us with our campaigns.
 
With some prints still available from the limited edition please have a look at Shaped and other items from Seb’s collection which you’ll find here https://www.seblester.com/
 
This is a fantastic help to us and will enable us to keep up the pressure on manufacturers and retailers to keep improving what’s available for our favourite pets, under our A Hutch Is Not Enough campaign which you can read about here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/a-hutch-is-not-enough/
 
Thank you Seb

Extreme winter weather

With amber and red weather warnings for the severe weather in most of the country we are asking people to act quickly to protect their outdoor pet rabbits.

Pictured this morning in Edinburgh

Our normal winter advice doesn’t cover these extreme conditions so we would ask owners to bring their rabbits into unused garages or sheds. Or if that is not possible then bring them indoors. But please be aware that if you are bringing them into the house, keep the room unheated. Rabbits are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature so if you put them in a room that is heated, it will be dangerous to put them outside in the cold again.

If you can’t bring them into a garage, shed or into the house then follow our winter advice, but multiply it by 10.

Rabbits really do suffer in these conditions – in the wild they’ll stay underground in large groups sharing body warmth. Pet rabbits rarely have that luxury. Keep them warm and dry, keep them safe.

Media Star! Members competition

RWAF Members

Do you and your rabbits want to become RWAF Social Media stars?  We are looking for members to profile in our new Social Media campaign which will run in February on both Facebook and Instagram.  Not only could you and your buns be featured, but there are some excellent prizes too (see later)!  All you need to do is submit one (or more) photo(s) of your rabbit and a separate photo of yourself and finish the following using between 250-300 words “ I am a member of the RWAF because…”    The RWAF Directors will select between 10-15 responses to use in the campaign.  Those selected to be profiled will receive a 10% off voucher for the RWAF shop https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/. And there’s more…once the campaign has run, the profile which receives the most likes/loves and shares will win this beautiful and unique rabbit memo board with stylus, specially made for us by Rosemary MacDonald.  The image is burnt into the wood and then lightly varnished

Deadline for entry is:   31st January 2018

How to enter in three easy steps:

Select one or more photos featuring you and separately, one or more of  your rabbit(s)

Finish the following  “ I am a member of the RWAF because…”    using between 250-300 words

Submit your photos along with your membership details and sentence here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/about-the-rwaf/photo-submissions/

Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing all your fabulous photos!

 

Capone Campaign Annual Report 2017

Introduction

The Capone Campaign is run by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, with funds provided by the Pet Trade. The campaign is designed to identify “rogue” rabbit breeders, who use Internet Sales Platforms (such as Ebay, Gumtree, Facebook, Shpock etc) as well as Pet Fairs and Boot Fairs, to sell on rabbits, often with no welfare considerations for the animals, no health checks or inoculations and no Local Authority licensing in place for running a pet sales business .

The Campaign relies on software provided by Hindesight, which maintains regular surveillance on sales sites looking for key words, and is then able to identify rabbit breeding and sales across the various platforms, linking common phone numbers, user names and email addresses, to minimise the ability of these “rogue” traders to hide behind multiple anonymised identities. The RWAF also relies upon information provided by concerned members of the public about the welfare of rabbits in trade, and proactive research and investigation by their dedicated Animal Welfare Officer / Investigator.

A post has been funded by the Campaign since late 2015, working 8 hours per week and tasked with a duty to carry out proactive and reactive investigations, based upon data provided by Hindesight and other sources. In May 2017 a new officer was retained by the RWAF, and the Campaign was able to continue with its mission to identify “rogue” traders and use every avenue available to it to minimise the impact of their activities. This includes referral to Local Authority Licensing Teams regarding failure to license pet sales businesses, the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit, RSPCA Intelligence Team and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The new officer brings with him over 25 years’ experience of investigation and enforcement work, coming from service with the Police as a Wildlife Crime Officer and Team leader of proactive intelligence teams, as well as from leading intelligence and investigation teams in a variety of Local Authority and Government agencies including Trading Standards and the Financial Conduct Authority.

2017 –
A timeline

May 2017 –
The new officer was recruited and commenced duties on or about 28/05/2017.

June 2017 –
Investigations started in earnest, the first enquiry stemmed from information supplied by the RWAF Senior Management regarding the activities of a former glamour model, who had taken to breeding and selling giant rabbits, online. Her business now has a global reach, and it was she was the breeder who sent the giant rabbit to America, which later died in transit aboard a United Airlines flight, attracting considerable negative feedback in the press against both United and the breeder. Investigations traced this breeder to their home address, and linked them in to a “pedigree” puppy breeding business.

They were referred to the Local Authority regarding the operation of an unlicensed pet sales business, and HMRC’s Tax Evasion Unit in London.

June also saw a wholesale review of how we “did” intelligence work, and the new officer revamped referral forms and processes to bring them in to line with the National Intelligence Model (NIM), this included the creation of a bespoke 5x5x5 Intelligence Document, a S9 Witness Statement, an intelligence / enforcement referral document as well as the start of research regarding sourcing a Criminal Justice secure email address and Data Protection Registration.

Ongoing long-term project work was also started in June, this involved the identification of traders using Gumtree and Pets4Homes with multiple identities and believed to be operating in the south east of England and further afield.

July 2017 –
Work started on two Kent-based prolific traders, one dealing in rabbits and wallabies and the second ostensibly based on the Island of Sheerness. The major concern with the Sheerness trader is the well known presence of RHVD2, rendering the uncontrolled sale of pet rabbits from that location suspect and highly irresponsible.

Work also started on the creation of a “database” of online traders, starting with those in SE England and London, and intended to develop across the UK as time allowed. In tandem with this was the creation of a database of licensed sites, sourced from Open Source Local Authority Information and Freedom of Information requests.

August 2017 –
August saw the commencement of our a long-term enquiry to identify one of the most prolific “rogue” traders on the internet based in Halifax, who appear to be linked to organised Traveller crime in that area. This enquiry is ongoing, and initial referrals have already been made to the NWCU and RSPCA as well as enquiries with the relevant Local Authorities.

Other work in August related to the establishment of our secure CJSM (Criminal Justice) email address, which allows us to make contact with the Police and other enforcement bodies in a secure fashion, thus allowing for a free passage of intelligence information, and registration of THE RWAF with the Information Commissioner for Data Protection purposes, which allows us to handle certain sensitive data.

September 2017 –
September saw enquiries commenced in to the activities of traders in Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Wiltshire. An urgent referral was forwarded to the AWO regarding a female breeder operating on Facebook, who appeared to be selling rabbits via that platform despite having had RHVD2 diagnosed in her animals. An urgent intelligence referral was made to Wiltshire Trading Standards and the RSPCA, once the breeder’s last known address had been identified.

October 2017 –
Work began on investigations in to the activities of a Leeds based trader, who has been identified as a prolific breeder and advertiser and a further Kent-based trader, who again is a prolific advertiser and sells using her own website.

October also saw work begin on a project identifying vendors of rabbit hutches, both online and in shops, offering products claiming to be authorised and recommended by the RWAF. To date two traders have been referred to local Trading Standards teams and the Advertising Standards Authority for making misleading claims in their advertising.

November 2017 –
Work continued regarding online and physical sellers around the South East, this included investigations regarding an urgent RWAF Management referral, following complaints about a breeder, who had been seen selling rabbits at a Pet Fair in the Thames Valley area, and keeping them in atrocious conditions. This seller was traced to Kent, where they run a Rare Breeds Centre from a Farm, the animals there are also being kept in suspect conditions.

This trader had claimed to the organisers of the Pet Fair that she held a Pet Shop Licence, this has however been shown to be a false claim. A full referral has been made to her local authority, HMRC and the RSPCA. In addition to this workstream, a further enquiry has arisen from Open Source monitoring of the Facebook Rabbit Sales account, leading to a woman in Herne Bay, Kent who is running a rabbit breeding, sales and accessories website from her home address. This individual has been referred to her local authority, Canterbury City Council and to HMRC.

December 2017 –
Following a complaint from a member of the public regarding an online seller (using Gumtree), an individual based in Wood Green, an investigation has been launched to identify and refer the individual as a matter of urgency. In his sales photos he can be seen mistreating one of his rabbits, holding it vertically by the ears, and the conditions in which it and other rabbits are depicted fall well short of basic Animal Welfare Standards.

Enquiries have linked this individual to the sale of Chickens as well as rabbits via a second online sales platform, once again the conditions depicted are atrocious and urgent action is needed to intervene from an animal welfare standpoint. As such this is the officer’s priority investigation for December, although initial intelligence regarding his believed location and phone number(s) has already been passed to the RSPCA and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

December has also seen the start of a work-stream to identify Romanian online traders, who are believed to be involved in the sale of pet rabbit breeds for food, an issue that has been mooted via social media for a few months, and appears to have become an issue to fuel the demand for rabbit meat amongst the Roma Gypsy community in the UK.

In addition December has also seen the identified trader records moving north and west from the South East where resources have been concentrated for the first six months of the AWO’s tenure with the RWAF.

Conclusion –
This report covers the period 28/05/2017 to 31/12/2017, which spans the current tenure of the Animal Welfare Officer / Investigator employed by the RWAF as part of the Capone Campaign.

The Campaign funds the officer for 8 hours per week, and this has meant that prioritisation of workloads has been a major factor of the latter half of 2017’s activities. The RWAF’s intelligence and investigation capability has had to be reviewed, and updated, making the function suitable to operate alongside and integrate with the intelligence and investigation functions of other Animal Welfare charities and enforcement agencies; hence we now have Data Protection Registration, CJSM Secure Emails, and utilise National Intelligence Model referral forms, Magistrates’ Court Act compliant statements and the like.

In addition to this ongoing work, investigations have been instigated, in particular with regard to “urgent” cases, raised either by concerned members of the public / RWAF Management, or through issues being identified by the AWO. Six of these have been completed and referred to the appropriate local authorities, and nine intelligence referral packs have been passed to other enforcement / animal welfare agencies.

In addition to this, the AWO has also fielded enquiries relating to ongoing animal welfare issues, and provided input to government animal welfare legislation consultations.

It is anticipated, now that the lion’s share of the overhaul of the administration of the function has been completed, that 2018 will see an exponential increase in investigation and intelligence work generated by the AWO.