Guest post – Lea Facey, Rabbit Residence

The current situation in the UK with the coronavirus outbreak and resulting lock down and social distancing measures has had a huge impact on rescues in general but particularly independent rescues like ourselves that rely on donations, income from holiday boarding and fundraising events to enable them to continue to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome unwanted or neglected pet rabbits.

Over the sunny May bank holiday weekend we were overwhelmed with more than one hundred adoption enquiries with just one in fifteen meeting or exceeding the rehoming requirements of 24/7 access to at least 60 square feet of predator proof space as recommended by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund and the PDSA. Many people were openly looking for pets to help amuse and occupy their children as schools were closed without giving much thought to the fact that responsible pet ownership means committing to caring for the animal for the rest of its life.

Suitable accommodation needn’t cost the earth but cheaper options such as second hand sheds, kennels, playhouses or aviaries have been difficult to come by due to lockdown and many manufacturers of quality rabbit housing had temporarily stopped trading. Size of accommodation isn’t the only thing to consider when looking to adopt (or purchase) rabbits. Ensuring the rabbits have access to enrichment items that allow them to express the full range of natural behaviours such as periscoping, hiding, chewing and digging as well as having space to binky is also vital to ensure both physical and emotional health.

The rabbits need constant access to good quality hay (the more varieties the better) or grass as this should make up 80% of their diet and they also need a bowl of clean fresh water. 5% of their diet should consist of a small amount of high fibre pellets and the rest can be made up from rabbit safe green vegetables or herbs or foraged wild plants. Owners will also need to ensure they keep up with yearly vaccinations and see a rabbit savvy vet if their rabbit becomes ill.

Rabbits should also live in neutered pairs or groups and a male and female pair usually works best. We’ve found that some owners are reluctant to neuter and vaccinate their rabbits and that many more are not prepared to make provision for expensive vets bills should their rabbits become ill, either by insuring their rabbits or some other means.

We managed to rehome a small number of rabbits who were already reserved and whose owners lived locally and had their accommodation approved once the initial lock down was eased slightly. We are now allowing a small number of adoption appointments and bonds to take place using social distancing and strict hygiene measures and have recently allowed small numbers of volunteers back on site. In many ways we are lucky that the rescue is located in a field rather than housed in an indoor facility. Access to routine veterinary treatment has been an issue and like many rescues we are struggling to manage large numbers of un neutered rabbits and are now having to turn away potential adoptees as so many of our rabbits are not yet ready for adoption.

Our vets have continued to support the rescue as best as they can whilst adhering to government guidelines which we are very grateful for. We have continued to help with emergency cases where rabbits were coming in from situations where they had been neglected or where owners have lost their jobs and the rabbits needed urgent access to emergency veterinary care or had sadly passed away; but we are at full capacity at present and are dreading the number of rabbits that will be given up when many owners who purchased them on a whim without doing research during lockdown no longer want them as they return to work and school or realise that they cannot provide them with the ongoing care they require.

Please adopt, don’t shop, and contact your local rescue to make sure you can meet their rehoming criteria. Check our our website for more information