Vets are urging pet owners to give thought to lonely rabbits and their welfare during Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW).  

Rabbit Awareness Week is coming soon. photo credit: Free Images – Layoutcom

The message comes after the British Veterinary Association (BVA) conducted a Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey in 2014 that revealed one in five British vets are concerned about rabbits kept as pets.

Respondents were asked what types of pets the public should be discouraged from keeping and rabbits were high on the list, with 22% of vets saying people should be discouraged from keeping them unless they can be properly looked after. Poor diets and poor husbandry were sited as concerns.

While many people think rabbits are easy to look after and ideal for children, they have complex needs and the traditional idea of a rabbit in a hutch can mean misery for them, the charity said.

Many of the vets who responded to the survey voiced concern about rabbits kept in hutches by themselves as they are very social animals and need contact with their own kind. Being kept in isolation causes them to experience boredom, frustration and fear.

A PDSA Animal Well-being report highlighted how widespread and serious this “Bugsy alone” syndrome is. In 2013, 65% of pet rabbits were living on their own, according to statistics.

BVA president John Blackwell said: “Pet owners – particularly parents trying to buy a suitable pet for their child – have the best intentions. But I would urge them to stop, think and ask questions before purchasing any animal, and give careful consideration to their ability to fully provide for its welfare needs, as well as the child’s relationship with the animal.

“Do your research first – ask your vet and read through helpful documents such as the Animal Welfare Foundation’s free caring for rabbits leaflet. Rabbits need the companionship of other rabbits and should never be kept alone or with guinea pigs. The best combination is a neutered female and a neutered male rabbit. “Potential rabbit owners also need to think about where their rabbits will live and what they will eat. As prey animals, they need to be able to hide from danger and need to be able to run, jump and dig as they would in the wild.

“We know as vets the pleasure pet ownership can bring to the whole family, including children. But the golden rule is always to put the animal’s welfare first so you have a happy, healthy animal that is part of the family.”

Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) runs from May 9-17 and is a coalition of experts, organisations and welfare charities from the rabbit community, who have come together to support Burgess Excel in their mission to improve public knowledge and awareness of the Five Welfare Needs of Rabbits.

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