A registered veterinary nurse will spend 48 hours in a human-sized “hutch” to highlight the miserable living conditions of thousands of rabbits.
Mrs Purnell, who describes herself as a “crazy bunny lady”, will dress up as a rabbit, eat an incorrect rabbit diet of muesli and carrots, and have inappropriate company – a guinea pig.
She had the idea after having a dream she was shut in a kennel at work. She told a colleague, who said it sounded like a good way to raise funds.
“It ballooned from there,” she said. “I’m really pleased with how the fund-raising is going.”
Mrs Purnell will be using an unused large animal room at the Upton practice, which has a walk-in kennel and double doors that open to the car park. She plans to put a tarpaulin over the kennel to resemble a hutch and will go in at 5pm on March 20 and come out at 5pm on March 22.
A small section of the practice will be open to the public from 9am to 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday to allow clients to see what she is doing and view displays from various rabbit organisations and rescue centres.
“I will live on muesli and carrots, have big false nails and take in a guinea pig to try to show people what they are doing wrong with their bunnies,” she said.
“I hope to educate people on the correct environment, health, diet and social interactions rabbits need as well as dispelling some of the rabbit care myths.”
She said the 2014 PDSA Animal Wellbeing report estimated 1.3 million rabbits were owned in the UK. Of these, 66 per cent were registered with a vet, less than half were neutered or regularly vaccinated and less than five per cent were microchipped.
Fifteen per cent of owners got their rabbits from rescue centres, while an estimated 42,000 rabbits were given up to rescues each year.
“This suggests a huge gap in education between current knowledge and people taking on this complex animal as a child’s first pet,” said Mrs Purnell, who has two rabbits, six guinea pigs and a dog.
“Rabbits are the third most popular pet, but one of the most misunderstood. A lot of people who take them on, even from rescues, don’t understand the best way to keep them. Rabbits’ diets seem to be improving, but still almost every rabbit hutch sold is not suitable for a rabbit to live in full-time.
“Most should be somewhere rabbits go back to as a safe haven with a massive run. But instead they are spaces that aren’t really suitable.
“The RSPCA says a rabbit should be able to do at least three big hops, but most of these hutches allow barely one. It’s quite heartbreaking.”
Mrs Purnell, who is 30, will be fund-raising for Fat Fluffs in Wolverhampton and Windwhistle Warren in Gloucestershire. She has set an initial target of £1,000 and donations can be made online at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/thehutchrabbit
You can also follow her on Twitter @thehutchbunny and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/events/778761468840195