A vision for improving rabbit welfare has been set out following research carried out by the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences.

The welfare needs of rabbits are not being met.

This is the first time welfare organisations, breeders, the pet industry and the veterinary professions have come together to agree on a strategy to best improve the welfare of rabbits in the UK.

The 10-point vision is based on the recommendations from a University of Bristol study, commissioned by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), into rabbit welfare in the UK, which found the welfare needs of many companion rabbits are not being met.

Proposals outlined include all rabbits sold or rehomed are to be kept in compatible pairs or groups and all rabbits should live in an environment that meets their physical, social and behavioural needs.

Nicola Rooney – research fellow in animal welfare and behaviour at the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences, primary author of the strategy and who jointly led the original research – said: “We are delighted to have a vision for rabbit welfare that is strongly rooted in evidence-based information and it’s great Bristol research is one of the key pieces of research underpinning the strategy.

“There is a growing body of scientific understanding on how best to meet rabbits’ health and behavioural needs. Both myself and my colleague, Richard Saunders, are part of the strategy group moving this vision forward and we’re very happy everyone has joined forces to take this on board.”

Jane Tyson, rabbit behaviour and welfare expert at the RSPCA, added: “We are really excited stakeholders in animal welfare, the pet industry, breeders and the veterinary profession have been able to come together to share this vision. “We share a common goal that is improving the lives of rabbits – one of Britain’s most popular pets, but also arguably one of the most misunderstood.”

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