With the current cold snap, this seemed like a very timely reminder to keep your bunnies safe and warm from the Rabbit Welfare Association.
In the light of the current outcry about the controversial John Lewis television advertising showing a neglected dog, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) is drawing attention to a wider issue: the silent suffering of a much larger number possibly hundreds of thousands of pet rabbits.
The ad which shows a child hanging a Christmas stocking on a kennel for the family dog, kept outside in the snow has generated support from almost 2500 people on Facebook and a great deal of media interest. The controversy stems from the fact that the dog is kept alone, outdoors, in inadequate accommodation: this, says the RWAF, is the norm for most pet rabbits in the UK, yet pet rabbits are no more suited to this than pet dogs.
RWAF Chief Executive, Rae Todd, said, "The John Lewis advert has received justifiable criticism but if it showed a child hanging out a stocking full of carrots on a small, snow covered hutch of a single rabbit, would there have been as much of an outcry? Countless thousands of rabbits are kept alone in a small hutch, with little or no space to exercise. What can they do all day stuck on their own in a hutch? They cannot bark so they suffer in silence.
Rabbits deserve the same level of responsibility as a dog or a cat, but they are so often the forgotten pet.
Anne Mitchell, who runs the RWAF helpline. agrees. "I receive a huge amount of calls in the winter from distressed owners who have found their rabbit frozen to death in its hutch. People think that because they have fur coats theyre fine in the cold, but the truth is that in the wild they live underground where the temperature only varies a few degrees between winter and summer, in large groups sharing body warmth. Rabbits are not designed to live alone, and they're not designed to live in a small wooden box in the garden."
Despite being the UK's third most popular pet, rabbits are amongst the most neglected. The RWAF, through its 'A Hutch is Not Enough' campaign, aims to educate owners and work with the pet retail trade to raise the status of the rabbit to that of a cat or a dog. Its website, http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk , offers advice on what rabbits need to live a healthy and contented life.
The RWAF urges owners not to forget their rabbits in the cold winter months. It advises that hutches and runs should be brought into sheds or covered, water bottles should be fitted with sleeves (available from pet shops) to stop them freezing, and extra bedding should be provided.
Please don't forget your rabbits this winter, says Rae Todd to rabbit owners. Apart from the need to be humane, you are also responsible for their care under the Animal Welfare Act. Even though it's cold, wet and dark outside, they still need feeding and cleaning out. The best way for rabbits to keep warm is for them to have the company of another rabbit - as they do in the wild. This needs to be done properly, i.e. two neutered rabbits should be introduced in the correct way and then live in appropriate accommodation.
For more information on caring for rabbits see http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/.
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) is a registered charity, No 1085689 and is the official charity of the Rabbit Welfare Association which has about 3000 members. It is dedicated to improving the lives of domestic rabbits kept as pets in the UK.