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Preloved and RSPCA join Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund’s Breeding Amnesty Campaign

Leading online classified retailer prohibits sale of rabbits, as other charities join the call for legislation change as UK is gripped by rabbit welfare crisis

The UK’s leading rabbit welfare organisation, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund1, has today announced that the RSPCA, Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, Wood Green Pets Charity and Preloved, a classified advertising website, have joined its Breeding Amnesty campaign.

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund welfare team is witnessing an unprecedented rise in abandoned and mistreated rabbits, with an alarming increase in the number of rabbits for sale online, and rescue centres at bursting point.

Currently, unlike other animals, there is no legislation in The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 around rabbit breeding in England. Anyone is legally allowed to start breeding and then sell the offspring – which results in uneducated and inexperienced rabbit owners having multiple litters, that they can’t look after or sell-on to responsible pet owners. And incredibly, there is no requirement to correctly sex the rabbits sold.

Preloved is supporting the Breeding Amnesty campaign by taking immediate action to stop rabbit breeders selling on its site. The website has informed users that with immediate effect, the sale of rabbits is no longer prohibited.

As part of its Breeding Amnesty campaign, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund has also launched a petition demanding a change in legislation to ensure rabbit breeders require the same licensing as dog breeders to ensure rabbits are no longer subjected to cruelty and poor welfare. In just under two weeks the petition has picked up over 35,000 signatures.

The lack of legislation is resulting in rabbit breeders having no licence, inspection, or standards, and a result of this is that babies are being mis-sexed and sold with no proper checks or care information. Unsuspecting owners are being faced with accidental litters, which can result in rabbits being dumped and our rescue centres becoming over-run.

Legally, pet shops must be licensed, this ensures that duties of care are met. Unfortunately, a licence is not needed if a person is breeding and selling rabbits online. This has become a boom area and is causing huge problems.

Rae Walters, Director of the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund said; “While there are omissions in legislation for rabbits in different areas of animal welfare, one of the most worrying is the lack of legislation for breeding rabbits, and this is an important area that needs to be addressed.

The lack of legislation is resulting in rabbit breeders having no licence, inspection, or standards, and a result of this is that babies are being mis-sexed and sold with no proper checks or care information. Unsuspecting owners are being faced with accidental litters, which can result in rabbits being dumped and our rescue centres becoming over-run.”

A spokesperson from Preloved said; “From 20th March to 9th April 2023, Preloved will stop accepting new listings for rabbits. Any listings submitted will be held for review by our moderators before being removed and a courtesy message sent to the would-be seller explaining the Breeding Amnesty campaign. We’re announcing this change, 5 weeks in advance, to make breeders aware that they will not be able to list their new litters for sale on Preloved during those dates. If they can pause breeding programmes now there won’t be any new litters needing to be sold during the time of the amnesty.

The RSPCA has also witnessed an unprecedented rise in abandoned and mistreated rabbits, with an alarming increase in the number of rabbits for sale online. Dr Jane Tyson, RSPCA scientific officer in CAD (Companion Animals Department) said; “The number of rabbits entering the RSPCA has surged since the pandemic, possibly because people could no longer care for their pets as life returned to normal, but also as a result of the cost of living crisis too.

“As more are coming into our care, our centres are at capacity and we are utilising private boarding which is costly to us as a charity. At the same time, we are seeing rehoming rates slowing, meaning rabbits are staying with us for longer than ever before.

“We are pleased to support the RWA&F breeding amnesty campaign and would urge anyone thinking of getting rabbits to do plenty of research first and consider adopting from one of our many centres across England and Wales rather than buying from a pet shop or online.”

Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare supports the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund’s breeding amnesty and Adopt Don’t Shop campaign and petition.

Matthew Gough, Head of Animal Welfare at Raystede, says, “We were asked to take 605 rabbits over the past 12 months (February 2022 to January 2023). On 1 February 2023, we had 22 rabbits at Raystede waiting for homes – we are completely full, we cannot take any more. In January 2023, there were 45 people wanting to surrender their rabbits to Raystede; we rehomed just 1 rabbit. We currently have 22 rabbits belonging to 11 owners on our ‘waiting list’– we have encouraged all the others to keep and care for their rabbits or find another solution, but the situation is untenable.

“RWAF’s campaign to stop breeding and sales would address the problem, not immediately but in the next year or so, thus eventually stopping the flow of ‘new’ rabbits onto the market and driving people who want rabbits to go to rescue centres like Raystede and adopt.

“We would urge everyone to get behind RWAF’s campaign and sign the petition to help improve the welfare of and reduce the numbers of unwanted rabbits.”

With a change in legislation, The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund and the RSPCA believes there would be an immediate improvement in the welfare of rabbits being sold and therefore a drop in the number of rabbits being abandoned or dumped.

Rae Walters, Director of the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund said; “Animal welfare legislation is an important step in decreasing animal suffering, and it gives a legal duty of care to those responsible for animals to house and manage them properly or at least to a minimum acceptable standard.

“I urge all pet lovers to stand with us and sign our petition to improve the welfare of rabbits.”

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