Some of the UK’s leading veterinary bodies have come together to produce a series of recommendations to help raise the bar on rabbit welfare in the UK.
In a joint position published today (15 January), the BVA, BSAVA and British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) have called for greater awareness of the health and welfare benefits of housing rabbits in compatible pairs.
They are also recommending that rabbit medicine should be featured more prominently within the veterinary curriculum so vets are better equipped to care for the species.
According to the 2019 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report, rabbits are the UK’s third most popular mammalian pet. However, their needs remain very misunderstood.
A BVA survey of vets in the UK showed 73% had seen pet rabbits that were not having all of their welfare needs met and, of the rabbits they saw, 42% were housed alone.
The position recommends better integration of rabbit medicine and husbandry into the veterinary curriculum so their management and treatment can be undertaken confidently, by any general practitioner.
It also recommends vets have a role in advising and educating owners about the importance of housing pet rabbits in compatible pairs; that is, two of the same sex (preferably neutered) or of neutered opposite sex, as well as the health benefits of neutering.
The position statement said pet sellers should inform potential owners that rabbits should not to be housed alone, as well as advising on best practice and ensuring only hutches with appropriate space to house two rabbits are sold to them.
The associations are also encouraging veterinary professionals to share the message under the hashtag #ItTakesTwo
BVZS president Peter Kettlewell said: “Rabbits are the third most popular mammal pet in the UK and, unfortunately, their health and welfare needs are often not met.
“The better the conditions we keep rabbits in, the less welfare and medical problems they will have during their lives.
“Along with the correct diet, keeping rabbits in suitable social groups is vital to healthy, happy pets. Good food and nice company make for a healthier rabbit.”
Reference: British Veterinary Association