‘Rabbits are the number one species we get called for about welfare and cruelty concerns,’ said GSPCA manager Steve Byrne.
‘We’ve had more than 400 domestic and wild rabbits come through our doors this year alone. For International Rabbit Day, we urge all rabbit owners to try to improve the care and diet of their rabbits in anyway they can.’
There are currently 12 rabbits at the GSPCA looking for new homes. Some have been there for more than three years.
‘Until recently, there’s been a real lack of information about rabbit care and welfare. I think people are starting to realise that rabbits need more space and company than previously believed,’ said Nicolle Morgan, GSPCA head of rabbits.
Mr Byrne said rabbits are often the ‘forgotten pet’. They are kept in small hutches at the bottom of gardens and traditional ways of keeping and maintaining rabbits still prevail.
‘Keeping them in a small hutch and simply providing food and water is enough to maintain their life, but it’s not a happy life,’ said Mr Byrne.
Miss Morgan said that rabbits are often perceived as a good pet for children, but they are not easy pets.
‘They’re just as much work as a dog or a cat,’ she said. ‘You must teach them to use a little box if they’re kept indoors, you have to teach them not to chew on furniture, and they need toys, bedding, and annual vaccines.’
Rabbits also have more complex emotional lives than some owners may expect. Miss Morgan said a rabbit’s way of expressing affection may not be as obvious as a dog or cat’s, but they have full, distinct personalities and often feel emotionally connected to their favourite people.
Although the GSPCA has a few large huts for their more permanent rabbits, Mr Byrne said the newer, more transient rabbits are housed in the oldest building on the site.
The GSPCA marked International Rabbit Day by announcing plans to fund and build a better, more modern rabbit and small animal facility.
Mr Byrne said the appeal is seeking approximately £60,000.
Animal Aid seeks helpers for rabbit rescue centre
ANIMAL Aid is looking for volunteers to help run its new rabbit rescue centre at its premises in the Forest.
Founder Sue Vidamour said rabbits needed a sanctuary as they are often abandoned and left to die.
‘Rabbits are cheap and easily obtainable and a lot of families buy a rabbit as a first pet for a younger children when, in fact, they are much better placed in families with older children and space for bigger runs.
‘They are often neglected or badly treated without the owners even knowing it. Rabbits crave company of their own kind and will not thrive on their own so should only ever be bought in pairs.
‘They need large hutches and runs to play. All too often they are squeezed into small cages which have a detrimental effect on them physically and mentally.’
Mrs Vidamour said she wanted owners to have somewhere they can take unwanted pets and know the rabbits will be looked after.
The centre will include several big runs and hutches for any rabbits given in. It has the funding and the space to do the work.
She said that they were looking for people to volunteer their time to help with the rabbits.
The aim is to rehome as many rabbits as possible, she said.
‘We have six acres here and four rabbits. At some point during the day we will find all four rabbits curled up together.’
Animal Aid is looking to launch an education programme with experts going into schools to explain how rabbits should be looked after and what is needed to keep them happy and healthy.