Stafford, Wolverhampton & District Branch
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New vision for improving rabbit welfare

We’ve been working with the University of Bristol, Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, British Rabbit Council and Pet Industry Federation to formulate a rabbit welfare vision statement. This was developed from research into the state of rabbit welfare in the UK, which we commissioned and was undertaken by researchers at the University of Bristol.

The vision statement was launched during Rabbit Awareness Week (9-17 May) and so far the PDSA, Blue Cross, Wood Green, National Office for Animal Health and the British Veterinary Nursing Association have all signed up to it.

This is a huge step forward for rabbit welfare and we are excited to be working with such a range of organisations with an interest in improving the welfare of rabbits.

Read the 10-point vision here, which includes that all rabbits sold or rehomed are to be kept in compatible pairs or groups and that all rabbits should live in an environment which meets their physical, social and behavioural needs.

Improving the lives of all rabbits

The Rabbit Welfare Vision Statement aims are that:

  1. All companion rabbits enjoy a good life in which they can experience positive welfare (i.e. good physical and psychological health) as well as being protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

  2. All rabbits have access to an appropriate diet, known to optimise animal health and minimise the risk of disease. This includes having continual access to both good quality fibre- based material (e.g. hay or fresh grass) to eat and fresh, clean water.

  3. All rabbits live in an environment which meets their physical, social and behavioural needs (e.g. to run, jump, graze, dig, rest and stand up on their hind legs without their ears touching the roof).

  4. All rabbits are sold or rehomed to be kept in compatible pairs or groups.

  5. All rabbits are bred, reared and kept in a way known to minimise their chances of developing fear of handling and other stimuli.

  6. All rabbits are given regular preventative health care as recommended by veterinary experts, e.g. vaccinated against myxomatosis and RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease: a virulent and fatal viral disease of rabbits) (according to current vaccine licence recommendations).

  7. All rabbits are given appropriate and timely veterinary treatment to protect them from pain, disease and suffering.

  8. All those working with rabbits (including vets, retailers, breeders, rehoming organisations) undertake effective training programmes and have resources available to them on current good practice in housing and husbandry, the promotion of health and welfare, and the management of disease and welfare risks.

  9. All rabbit health and welfare advice and recommendations are based on international scientific knowledge and professional experience. The veterinary professions offers up-to-date expertise in recognition, management and prevention of disease and in practices to promote good welfare.

  10. The number of rabbits requiring rehoming (both privately and via rescue organisations) is minimised.

The organisations will now seek for this vision to be incorporated into a Defra Code of Practice for rabbits in England, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (a code for rabbits already exists in Wales and Northern Ireland).

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