Current Laws offer little to no protection for these often misunderstood & frequently neglected pets.
The Pet Animals Act 1951, Animal Welfare Act 2006 & Pet Shop Licencing Regulations are outdated & often unworkable therefore offer little protection for the welfare rights of these animals.
The pet rabbit situation is critical. The RWAF estimate that 67,000 rabbits passed through rescue centres in the UK in 2012 alone.
Urgent rabbit specific welfare laws are required to encompass the beliefs of the RWAF, to include not only the sale of rabbits in pet shops but to ensure their overall welfare, to guarantee that not only proper care advice is freely available, but to include the sale of adequate housing & dietary products as is the legal requirements for all pet owners to provide under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/index.php
Meet Basil Bunny, Best Rescue Story, Wetnose Awards 2012 and the inspiration behind this campaign.
1: NO PET SHOP SALES
This whole area urgently needs tighter regulation, pet shops standards are as a whole, appalling when it comes to rabbits!
Rabbits are sold & bought far too freely with little concern for their overall welfare; they are often marketed as a cheap, easy, low maintenance pet in addition to the wrong widespread belief that they make good child friendly pet due to the fact they are cute & cuddly.
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Rabbits are complex animals & their needs are just not being met by many owners due to not only ignorance - often stemming from the lack of good solid care/welfare advice at point of sale - but poor quality housing, dietary products & a poor public perception towards these animals.
Standards within our pet shops continually fail these animals; small cramped enclosures, overfeeding of commercial food stuffs, little or NO hay, dirty water, brightly lit enclosures, poor ventilation, rabbits housed with Guinea Pigs, overall lack of staff knowledge, poor handling and the mis-sexing rabbits to name but a few.
All too often the advice given at point of sale is either non-existent, misleading, very basic or just plain wrong.
Pet Shop Licencing states that proper care advice should be forthcoming & relevant to that species, in addition to the at least one member of staff (or owner) having relevant qualifications.
Time and again we (Rabbits Require Rights, Scotland) are finding poor overall standards in our pet shops & general negative perceptions toward these animals.
We need tighter controls over private breeders & newspaper/internet classified adverts.
Rescue centres should also be licenced to ensure proper welfare standards are being met as poor standards all too often have an immediate negative effect on the rescues who do good work.
Boarding Establishments for rabibts is another area that need immediate attention as these are unlicenced & unregulated also.
Other areas include Petting Zoo's or similar set-ups, anywhere that keeps rabbits must adhere to strict guidelines regarding all aspects of the Animal Welfare Act's 5 legal requirements on owners & keepers of which the needs of rabbits are so often overlooked.
We want to see the introduction of strict licensing conditions via registered breeders/sellers in regards to their sale.
Schools & other areas with class pets should also be regulated. As places of learning they have a duty of care to ensure the correct welfare laws, needs & education is passed onto pupils & not house, feed or treat animals as novelty items, also to ensure animals are properly cared for during holidays & not passed into the hands of neglectful parents who give into the demands of the child too easily.
2: NO UNREGULATED BREEDING - Hobby & Commercial
This area is unregulated. Anyone can set up a ‘backyard’ breeding empire
We have to limit & stop the unregulated supply network of rabbits (and other small animals) for pet shops & other outlets and prevent the over-breeding of individual animals as this leads to genetic abnormalities (dental issues etc..) and also widespread instances of hoarding, where breeding animals are kept in dirty cramped conditions with little thought of welfare for the individual rabbits.
Breeders, both hobby & commercial need to properly regulated via licencing & undergo regular inspections to ensure proper welfare standards are met at all times, thus limiting the problems assocaited with these 'rodent mills'.
3: NO INADEQUATE HOUSING
No more small outdoor hutches and indoor cages.
Hutches to be sold in guidance with acceptable sizes as set out by the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) standards and sold complete with Run.
The RWAF, RSPCA & PDSA all recommend that a hutch should measure a minimum of 6x2x2ft with a secure attached run of 6x8x4ft to house two rabbits comfortably.
We also stress that the separate sales of hutches and runs to cease.
These items should be sold together as one package thus not only ensuring the owner will have the room to accommodate suitable housing but the rabbit(s) will be given a suitable living environment, as is a legal requirement for all pet owners to provide under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Indoor cages are again too small for a rabbit to live in. If the rabbit(s) are unable to live free range within the home, then a more suitable environment would require large dogs crates with attached pen to ensure the rabbits are able to move freely & express natural behaviours.
4: NO ISOLATION
Rabbits are sociable animals and should be homed in pairs or groups in addition to offering a bonding service by the licensed breeder/seller/rescue centre for those looking for a partner for their single buns
5: NO SUFFERING
Any rabbit being sold or re-homed should come with a (recent) health certificate, vaccinated & neutered (if old enough or neutering vouchers if not) in addition to relevant care advice pack.
Laws Governing the need for regular Vet checks for rabbits.
Ensure our Veterinary practises have at least one rabbit savvy vet in house; rabbit health is a more specialised field as they come under the ’exotic’ category. A large proportion of vets do not have a good up-to-date working knowledge of rabbit health nor do they carry out thorough health checks and are often unable to tend to these animals in emergency situations due to lack of knowledge/equipment & medicines relevant to this field.
Better education not only to the public but those we trust to oversee our animal welfare laws to ensure rabbits get the protection they sorely need.
The public perception has to change, we have to remove the myth of the cute, cuddly child friendly pet to the true extent that rabbits are complex animals rabbits with specific needs that should always be met by the owner.
Diet! Ensure rabbits are fed a proper diet, no more muesli based foods; remove treat products which contain dairy, egg & a high sugar content from sale & promote the message that carrots are not a whole food, they are BAD for rabbits & should only be fed in small amounts as an occasional treat.