The British Veterinary Association has expressed disappointment over news that DEFRA has no plans to publish a code of practice on the welfare of pet rabbits, and is urging the Government to reconsider.

The British Veterinary Association has expressed its disappointment over news that the Government has no plans to publish a code of practice on the welfare of rabbits.

DEFRA has no current plans to publish a code of practice on the welfare of pet rabbits.The news came to light in a response to a parliamentary question by Willie Bain MP, when the minister, James Paice MP, stated that DEFRA has no current plans to publish a code of practice on the welfare of pet rabbits.

Speaking in parliament on February 17, Mr Paice said: “We consider that the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to provide for the welfare needs of animals are sufficient to ensure the necessary protection for the welfare of pet rabbits.”

In response to this statement, BVA president Harvey Locke, said that vets were seeing more and more husbandry-related problems with rabbits.

He said: “Dental disease and obesity are two of the most common problems we encounter and both are directly linked to inappropriate diets. Another issue of concern is inadequate space for exercise – but perhaps the most neglected of all the welfare needs is a lack of companionship for these very social animals.

BVA president Harvey Locke.“The recently published PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report found that 700,000 rabbits could be suffering, mentally and physically, because they are not receiving all the essential health and welfare requirements for their happiness and wellbeing.

The Government has missed an opportunity to educate owners about responsible rabbit ownership and improve the health and welfare of the UK’s third most popular pet.”

Referring to the Welsh Assembly Government code of practice How to look after your rabbit, Mr Locke said: “Wales has led the way recently with the publication of a code of practice which highlights the welfare needs of rabbits and what the law requires owners to do. It would be heartening to see DEFRA follow suit.
 
“With over 1.6 million rabbits in the UK, they are the fastest growing sector of the pet market but sadly preventive health care is often neglected and also many of these highly social animals suffer chronic loneliness and boredom because they are kept alone. This news is a blow for rabbit welfare and we would urge the Government to reconsider its decision.”

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