Families thinking of rabbit ownership could help to alleviate a growing welfare crisis in the UK if they adopted their new pets instead of buying them.
Since the start of the pandemic rescue centres have seen a huge number of rabbits signed over to them, with many charities struggling to cope.
One organisation, Rabbit Residence Rescue, is searching for new homes for 68 rabbits with a further 100 unwanted pets waiting to be signed into the centre.
And to help reduce the number of animals in its care, the rescue centre is urging new pet owners to ‘adopt, don’t shop’
Lea Facey, manager of Rabbit Residence, based near Royston in Hertfordshire, said: “It’s exhausting to open emails or answer the phone every day for yet another rabbit, or even whole litters of babies, needing rescue space.
“It breaks our heart that we’re going to have to start saying no, we’re full. Other rescues in the area are facing the same problem, and it worries us greatly, where will all these animals end up?
“Rabbits can need new homes for all sorts of reasons, but it frustrates us when it’s merely a lack of research into proper care of rabbits that has led to them needing a new home.
“They aren’t simply children’s pets, they are all very individual and strong willed little animals. They can be fragile and get sick very quickly, which can run up very large vet bills.
“They can’t be kept in tiny little hutches or cages, they need a lot of space to run around, as much as space as you would offer a cat or small dog, but secure and safe of course.”
Lee added that one of the main problems facing rescue centres was unwanted litters.
“Rabbits will indeed ‘breed like rabbits’ given the chance,” she said. “It can cost the rescue over £1,000 to prepare a litter of babies for rehoming – that includes neutering, vaccinating and veterinary health checks.
“We have had 12 rabbits born at the rescue after their pregnant mothers were signed over to us, and we’re only half way through the year.”
The rescue offers plenty of advice on the proper care of rabbits and recommendations on where to buy things like food and housing on their website.