While many of us have struggled with isolation during lockdown, a veterinary charity is urging Wiganers to spare a thought for rabbits who suffer more.
As restrictions ease and society returns to normal, a new report by PDSA has found that thousands of rabbits will continue to face perpetual confinement, enduring inadequate spaces and a lack of companionship.
The charity’s Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report found that half of UK rabbits live alone and a quarter are kept in inadequate housing conditions, such as cramped hutches.
Now the charity is raising awareness of the plight our cotton-tailed companions suffer during Rabbit Awareness Week, which started on August 10.
The week sees animal charities and organisations come together in a bid to address the rabbit welfare crisis.
PDSA Vet Lynne James said: “Worryingly, PDSA’s Report also found that over a 24-hour period, rabbits spend an average of 11 hours inside their hutch.
“Sadly, one-in-ten rabbits don’t have a run, living their lives in a hutch, and a further one-in-ten rabbits don’t even have enough room in their runs to hop*.
“During lockdown, many of us will have experienced feelings of isolation, boredom and loneliness. But while we can begin to ease out of lockdown into a new kind of normality, our PAW Report findings show the sad reality that thousands of rabbits will continue to face perpetual confinement, enduring inadequate spaces and a lack of companionship, which can cause immense suffering. Our research shows that 98 per cent of rabbit owners said that their pet was loved, so it may be that most of the time owners are misunderstanding their pets’ needs as opposed to any intentional mistreatment.
And Lynne said it is “incredibly concerning” that 65 per cent of owners disagree that their rabbit is lonely.
She said that whether rabbits are kept indoors or outdoors, they should be given enough space to lie down, stretch out and stand on their back legs without their ears touching the top of the home.
She said: “Rabbits are very social animals and need another cotton-tailed friend to be happy so it’s incredibly concerning that 65 per cent of owners disagree that their rabbit is lonely.
“Rabbits should always be homed with one other carefully introduced bunny in a large enriching space. Whether they’re kept inside or outdoors, the more space you can give your rabbits, the better!
“Your rabbits’ homes should provide more than enough room for them to lie down, stretch out, stand on their back legs without their ears touching the top and should be long enough for them have a little sprint.
She added: “It’s never too late to improve the quality of life for the nation’s rabbits – there is plenty of advice out there, including on PDSA’s website, or speak to your vet for guidance.”
During the awareness week, alongside other animal charities and welfare organisations, PDSA is urging owners to ensure their bunnies are happy and healthy by checking their five welfare needs are met; Environment, Companionship, Health, Diet and Behaviour.
For more information on rabbit care, visit PDSA’s website: www.pdsa.org.uk/rabbits