Sadly, rabbits are one of the most neglected of pets. Animal rescue centres in the UK are overflowing with unwanted pet rabbits that are desperate for a loving home. Despite this, Glen Bruce, who already runs a pet breeding business, has applied for planning permission for a new pet rabbit breeding facility in Lincolnshire.
Selling rabbits and other small animals in pet shops encourages impulse buying, which is dangerous because many people are ignorant to a rabbit’s needs. For example, many don’t realise that a rabbit needs the company of another rabbit in order to be happy. While a good rescue centre would do a home visit to see if the person’s home is suitable to adopt an animal, breeding facilities rarely take this precautionary step.
“Hundreds of thousands of rabbits face an unhappy, lonely existence in cramped accommodation, whilst being fed an inappropriate diet and suffering from a range of painful diseases.” PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon Sean Wensley.
Pet owners give 67,000 rabbits to rescue centres every year in the UK, and many more abandon these animals into the wild, leading to almost certain death. Petition author Christine says, “I was a Rehoming Co-ordinator for a local animal rescue centre so I know that rescues are inundated with unwanted rabbits – the county does not need a pet breeding facility to make matters worse.”
There has been a 20 per cent rise in the number of rabbits being abandoned by their owners in Scotland over the last five years.
Scotland’s animal welfare charity, the SPCA, is now urging people to think very carefully before buying a bunny.
The number of abandoned, unwanted and neglected bunnies has steadily increased with 669 rabbits being rescued in 2015, up from 555 in 2010.
As annual Rabbit Awareness Week kicks off on Monday, the charity is encouraging existing and would be owners to consider taking a rescue rabbit rather than buying a new bunny from a shop.
Anna O’Donnell, manager of the charity’s rescue and rehoming centre in Cardonald said: “This year is proving to be very challenging as well and this worrying trend demonstrates why we need to raise awareness of the hardships many pet rabbits face.
“There are many excuses as to why people are giving up their pet rabbits, the main reason being that their children have got bored of them.
“Although there are lots of loving rabbit owners who treat their pets like one of the family and give them all the care and attention they need, sadly this isn’t true in all cases.
“Some rabbits arrive in our care in a terrible state having been denied basic nutrition and veterinary attention, while others are sadly forgotten pets children have grown tired of.
“Thankfully, the severe cruelty cases are in the minority. The biggest issue is rabbits being put in a hutch and left at the bottom of the garden, with many enduring a life of solitude and boredom. “Often the only interaction they have is a brief visit from their owner to bring food and water. Many owners even find this to be a chore and it is these rabbits which tend to be dumped outdoors or handed into one of our rescue centres unwanted.
“While we never encourage taking on a pet on impulse, we currently have rabbits in our care looking for good, permanent homes.
“Anyone thinking of rehoming a rabbit should ensure they have the time, commitment and financial ability to provide a happy and healthy life. We’d be delighted to welcome potential owners along to our rescue centre to meet the rabbits we have waiting for a fresh start in life and loving new homes.”
Extraordinary claims have been made that the Scottish National Rugby team were made to hunt and kill rabbits to toughen them up.
A former player spoke out against head coach Vern Cotter, who allegedly ordered players to kill the wild animals with their bare hands during a training exercise.
Jim Hamilton, who attended the camp in France last June before the Rugby World Cup spoke of his shock at being ordered to batter with wild rabbits to death.
He claims Cotter picked on teammate Richie Gray, who did not want to take part in the slaughter.
Animal rights campaigners last night hit out at the unnecessary cruelty, with Elisa Allen, the UK director of PETA saying: “Turning rugby players into killers won’t improve their game, and to call it ‘unsporting’ is an understatement.
“Crushing the skulls of rabbits and slitting their throats are terrifying and agonising ways to kill these sensitive, intelligent animals, and such violent acts may be illegal in France, where this cruelty allegedly occurred.
“PETA is calling on authorities to investigate and also asking the rugby league to take immediate action to put a stop to any further ‘training’ with animals.”
Recalling the events on the Rugby Pod podcast, Hamilton said: “Vern was sitting there in full outdoor hunting gear – big jumper, walking boots – and he’s got a knife.
“He said: ‘Right lads, we’ve got four hours, we’re cooking for dinner. Who doesn’t want to kill the rabbits?’
“Richie Gray puts his hand up, along with Ross Ford, Stuart Hogg and another guy. Vern then told them, ‘Right you four are killing the rabbits.'”
“An army guy at the camp pulled out this bunny rabbit – it’s not even a wild rabbit – and says: ‘this is how you need to kill it.
“He’s swinging this rabbit round with one hand, then next thing he slams it on the floor.
“I’m not joking, the thing’s eyes popped out of its head, then he cuts his throat.
“So the boys had to go and kill the other three. Richie is spinning this thing round and he’s saying that he can’t slam it, and Vern shouts: ‘f**kin’ kill it!’
“Richie does it, but it’s not dead, it’s shaking like mad and there’s blood everywhere, and he’s slamming it over the head with a stick.
“Needless to say, the rabbits didn’t taste that succulent – they were a bit tough. But that’s all we had for food, with 35 baguettes.”
This incident allegedly occurred at the training base at Font Romeu in the Pyrenees, where the players were forced into a commando-style training exercise with the French Marines.
Hamilton said the training consisted of “no sleeping bags, no tents, no kit – there are 40 big rugby players sat around the campfire”.
However last night Hamilton seemed to backtrack from the events on his Twitter saying that his account of the rabbit deaths were exaggerated.
However, a Murrayfield insider admitted to the Scottish Mail on Sunday that rabbits had been killed by the players at the camp.
The source said: “This was a well organised, well-resourced team-building exercise led by the Marines, where the guys where shown how to survive.
“They were shown, as a survival technique, how to kill rabbits and some took part. It was done properly and humanely and no-one was forced to do it. Vern Cotter did not order any players to do this.
“Unfortunately, some of what Jim Hamilton has talked about on the podcast has been exaggerated.”
It called for rabbits to be given the same protection as cats and dogs as well as regulations on breeding and the minimum size of housing.
The group hopes a tightening of the rules would also reduce the numbers of abandoned rabbits.
A spokeswoman for Rabbits Require Rights Scotland said campaigners were pleased to have had their call heard by MSPs.
Last year, animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA said it rescued 728 rabbits in 2014 and took 669 into care last year. These included abandoned, unwanted and escaped pets.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said many of the rabbits the charity rescued last year had either been abandoned or given up by their owners.
He said: “A common excuse we hear is that the children in the family, who asked for the rabbit in the first place, have become fed up now the novelty of the new pet has worn off.
“Another reason is that the owner simply doesn’t have the time to look after their rabbit.”
Mr Flynn added: “One of the biggest issues is rabbits being left in a hutch with no interaction other than a brief visit from their owner to bring food and water.
“These poor rabbits are literally suffering in silence, living a miserable and lonely life.”
Campaigners hope a petition calling for greater legal protection for pet rabbits will get a second hearing in Holyrood next month.
Rabbits Require Rights Scotland‘s 2,044-name petition was first discussed by MSPs earlier this year. It calls for rabbits to be given the same protection as cats and dogs as well as regulations on breeding and the minimum size of housing. Earlier this month, it emerged hundreds of pet rabbits have been abandoned.
The Scottish SPCA said it rescued 728 rabbits in 2014 and had taken 550 into care so far this year.
Rabbits Require Rights Scotland described rabbits as the “UK’s most neglected pet”. A spokeswoman said: “As the law currently stands there are no enforceable welfare protection available to rabbits. They are too easily sold and too easily discarded. For want of a better word, they are sold like sweeties.”
The spokeswoman added: “We will return to parliament for the second hearing of our petition sometime in September or October when the new session dates are announced. We’ve had some good feedback from other welfare bodies in support of our aims, so it is hoped that some level of the improvements we have called for will be addressed.”
Rabbits Require Rights today called for the pets to be granted similar protection to cats and dogs at Holyroods Public Petitions Committee.
Scotland’s former justice secretary has backed a campaign by rabbit rights campaigners to improve the welfare of the “furry monsters”.
Campaigner Karen Gray told the committee: “It’s not that we want pet rabbits to disappear altogether, it’s just that they are out of control. People still view them as cheap, easy, cuddly, child-friendly, and they are far from it. They are one of the most difficult pets. They’ve got specific needs. They’re certainly not cheap, they’re not cuddly, they don’t like being picked up. Of course they look cute, but they are just little furry monsters wrapped in fluff. The pet industry does very little to change these views. Just recently there was a pet shop in Kilmarnock which was one of many saying rabbits are great for kids and they would love a bunny for Easter. It’s like puppies for Christmas – it leads to high levels of neglect.”
SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill, justice secretary in Alex Salmond’s Scottish Government, said: “I think there is an underlying issue here.
“I was taken by the comments made about rabbits being classified as exotic pets. Having been round the SSPCA (Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) welfare centres it’s not simply rabbits, cats and dogs, but chinchillas, salamanders, exotic birds, you name it. We live in a global world and animals are being traded and openly sold. I don’t necessarily know what the solution is here but I think an issue has been raised, and it would therefore be appropriate to ask the government for their take on what may be their thoughts with regards to rabbits, and perhaps even the wider issue, although that isn’t the petition before us. Certainly, also raising it with the SSPCA and the Pet Industry Federation.”
The committee agreed to seek the views of the SSPCA and the Pet Industry Federation before writing to the Scottish Government.