Rabbit Require Rights (Scotland) are a Scottish Registered Charity SCO44268 who aim to raise awareness & education alongside offering advice and support towards the betterment of pet rabbit welfare by promoting RWAF beliefs, standards & educational information.
They have launched a vital petition to help improve the lives of domestic rabbits. Although the petition is focused on a change in Scotland - it is open for signatures from anyone WORLDWIDE and its so important that this gets shared far and wide to maximize its effectiveness before closure on the 10th April 2015.
This petition for pet rabbit welfare legislation has been submitted to the Scottish parliament. This urges the Scottish government to introduce measures to curb the urgent welfare crisis that surrounds our most neglected companion pets, rabbits.
The aim is to give rabbits the same protection by law as dogs and cats currently have by ending the widespread sale of rabbits via pet shops and other outlets. The petition recommends this is done by introducing ordinances protecting rabbits similar to those operational in numerous states and cities in Northern USA and Canada. These ordinances, backed by the House Rabbit Society, have proved very successful as more and more areas implement them. It sees selected stores and businesses working with local rescues and shelters to offer rescue rabbits to new owners via vetting process thus freeing up space and saving lives by finding good homes for unwanted bunnies.
As a nation of animal lovers, Scotland has the power to set a precedent for the rest of the UK to follow by both tightening existing legislation and introducing new powers to ensure the welfare needs of these long suffering domestic pets are met and by doing so, put an end to this out of control cycle of neglect.
It's not just the issue of rabbits being bred and sold so freely to pretty much anyone on a 'whim' but the related products which can be very harmful to their health. The fact is, the vast majority of owners are not being deliberately neglectful towards their pets, they are just following preconceived notions of how past generations have kept rabbits and buying these products as they are so freely available. After all, a business wouldn't sell them if they were detrimental to health, would they? Sadly the answer to this is yes.
Many rabbit owners will be shocked to learn that their own pet is in fact worse off than a battery / farmed rabbit. Thousands of pet rabbits in the UK spend their entire lives confined to hutches or indoor cages the same size or smaller than the DEFRA guidelines which equates to a hutch with a floor space of 4ft x 2ft. Hutches this size or smaller are commonly available as currently there is no legislation to ensure adequate living environments are sold and many owners believing that the hutches or cages freely sold by numerous outlets are suitable, when in truth they are tantamount to cruelty, particularity when used as the only living space for their rabbits.
By creating minimum recommended welfare standards for rabbit housing (as recommended by The rabbit Welfare Association and Fund) i.e. a sheltered living space of 6x2x2ft hutch or shed with a secure attached run of 8ft minimum, then we can ensure that no rabbit spends it's life in a prison . By introducing these measures, businesses will no longer be able to sell these prisons and our enforcement agencies can instruct owners to provide suitable living quarters.
Again, we want to see the sale of harmful dietary products, such as commercial muesli mixes and dairy / egg based treats off the shelves. A recent study conducted by the Royal Dick Veterinary School concluded that feeding muesli-style foods, with or without hay, is linked with abnormalities that can lead to painful dental and digestive problems that require veterinary treatment which can result in great expense to the unsuspecting owner and serious long term effects for the rabbit.
Overall, with an estimated 67,000 rabbits in rescue during 2012 (RWAF study) the re-homing centres throughout the UK are struggling to cope both financially and physically, not only due to sheer number of rabbits needing new homes but the numerous complex health issues many arrive with. There simply aren't enough new homes to allow this practice to continue unheeded and as such, this 'industry' must be regulated.
We need to wake up to the fact that rabbits are endearing, highly intelligent, inquisitive, active, agile, clean, social and loving animals which makes them the ideal companion pet for numerous owners. As such, they should be given the same level of protection as cats and dogs enjoy and be treated accordingly.
Rabbits have specific and complex needs; they are neither 'caged' pets nor suitable for children and as such these outdated viewpoints simply have to change!
Whilst improved education and awareness into the many issues that surround rabbit welfare is key, proactive measures in the form of legislation to protect the welfare needs of rabbits is required to not only curb the high numbers of rabbits available in the marketplaces, but reduce the burden on the rescues and lessen the high levels of (unintentional) neglect thereof.
In addition to the petition, founder & chair, Karen Gray with the help of a bunny friend will be taking part in a couple of 'hare' raising activities over the Easter weekend to help raise awareness for rabbit welfare and will be doing a bunny bungee jump on Easter sunday at Killiecrankie Highland Fling nr Pitlochry.