The RSPCA is highlighting the plight of the UK’s third most popular – and widely misunderstood – pet.
The animal welfare charity rescued more than 11,000 rabbits over the last three years, 3,678 in 2018 and 4,000 each in 2016 and 2017.
Many of these rabbits are rescued as a result of abandonments with more than 1,690 calls being logged by the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line relating to abandoned rabbits in 2018.
RSPCA rabbit welfare expert, Dr Jane Tyson said: “Sadly, rabbits are still one of the most misunderstood pets, which means we rescue thousands of neglected rabbits each year. Unfortunately, rabbits are often bought as a child’s first pet with the assumption that they are easy to care for, but these pets have very complex needs.
“The image of a lone rabbit in a small hutch at the bottom of the garden should be consigned to the past and hopefully more and more owners are realising this. Rabbits are social animals and need to be kept in pairs, they also need to have a large sized hutch or shelter with an attached run so that they can exercise.
“It’s also important that owners take their rabbits for regular vet checks and ensure that they are vaccinated against potentially fatal diseases which are easily preventable. This is especially important given the ongoing rise in cases of the killer virus RVHD2, which can be prevented by an additional vaccination.”
RSPCA’s Chief Veterinary Officer Caroline Allen said: “As well as providing vital protection against killer diseases when you visit your vet for a vaccination your rabbit will be thoroughly examined for any other health issues.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a ‘health MOT’. Sadly, far too many rabbits are still dying from totally preventable diseases and regular vaccinations and health checks are a vital part of keeping your rabbits healthy and safe.”
Throughout June, rabbit owners are invited to get a free health check for their pets at participating vets. A list of vets involved can be found here www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk/find-a-raw-event.
The RSPCA has plenty of rabbits in its centres and branches looking for their forever homes. If you are considering adopting two rabbits or one bunny for your existing rabbit, you can visit www.rspca.org.uk/findapet.