Tens of thousands of unwanted rabbits are dumped at shelters each year because pet shops sell them to people and do not educate them on their needs and wants. Rabbits love to run and jump and are social animals. They make great house pets and can be litter box trained as easily as cats. Outside rabbits should live in large runs with shelter from the weather. Indoor rabbits should also have a minimal cage size, and be allowed out for exercise daily. Rabbits are the third most popular pet in this country, deserve to have a healthy diet, regular vet care, and all the considerations as cats and dogs receive.
The RSPCA states that 70% of rescued rabbits had been kept hutched 24 hours a day. Almost 40% had had no food, and half had been living in filthy conditions. They state that people bought rabbits but then quickly lost interest, because they misunderstood how a rabbit should live. On average the abandoned pets it came across had been dumped after just three months. They found that rabbits are the most abused domestic pet in England and Wales.
In response to a letter on this subject that I wrote to DEFRA last year, I received a response from Douglas Potter stating that "protection of rabbits would take a considerable amount of time and runs contrary to the government's wider agenda to reduce burdens on businesses and local authorities". That is a blatantly irresponsible attitude and simply put, is by far, not good enough.
What about the burden on rescues and shelters? And most importantly, what about the burden on these intelligent and beautiful creatures? In a country that touts itself as one of animal lovers, this is a travesty, and must have a solution. The sale of rabbits in pet shops being banned will not cause pet shops and garden centres' finances to collapse. This is a ridiculous excuse and that kind of thinking is what causes such consequences as horse meat being sold as beef, Mr Paterson.
It is time for DEFRA to own its place in the government and make change for the better.