A man from Essex has been banned from keeping animals for life after allowing his pet rabbit to starve to death.

Darren Gibbs, 45, from Colchester was found guilty at Colchester Magistrates’ Court for neglecting the needs of the female rabbit and was given an eight-week suspended sentence, 120 hours’ unpaid work and fined £2,369.

The RSPCA was called in on October 2013 after concerns were raised about a grey rabbit in Gibbs’ back garden. The animal welfare charity visited the address and found the animal dead in a filthy hutch with no food or water.

An examination confirmed the rabbit had died from dehydration and starvation and hadn’t been properly fed for at least three weeks or given water for at least two days. The animal was also found to be suffering from severe teeth and stomach conditions.

RSPCA inspector Sarah Elmy said: “This poor rabbit was just left to endure a prolonged death in silence – neglected in horrible conditions with no one caring for her. There is no doubt this rabbit had a painful final few weeks full of suffering.”

Rabbits are one of the UK’s most popular pets, however the welfare needs of the animal are often misunderstood.

Sarah Elmy added: “This may be an extreme case, but the ignorance about the welfare of rabbits and what is needed to look after them is unfortunately something we see quite a lot.

“The tragic death highlights what is sadly an all too common scenario of rabbits who are bought as pets for their children and then just left in their hutches and often almost completely ignored.”

Rabbit owners have a duty of care to properly look after their pets. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, owners must ensure their rabbits’ five welfare needs are met.

This includes providing a suitable environment, diet and company, allowing their rabbits to express normal behaviour and protecting their rabbits from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

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