We are utterly heartbroken to bring you the news that Loo-loo passed away unexpectedly on Sunday 5th March ’17 after a very short illness.
I had noticed that her breathing was quite fast that morning and she also showed little interest in her breakfast. After speaking to the vet, arranging an emergency out of hours appointment and administering – her usual ‘stand-by’ – medications, she took a turn for the worst during the journey there, and as we reached the door of the Vet hospital she passed away in my arms.
I am still in shock about the whole situation, I knew something was amiss with her as soon as I saw her that morning, but she showed no signs of obvious illness, pain or discomfort that you would normally associate with a bunny in Gut Stasis; half an hour prior to us setting off for the emergency consult, she was hopping around, had a bit of a groom, chewed on her cardboard box and happily snuggled next to Alfie.
The results of the Post-mortem showed that a large plug of mucus had formed in her tummy, blocking off the exit to the intestines, in addition to her liver being in a bad way. She had fatty liver disease and the tissue was ‘crumbly’ to the touch. She was also overweight, if not obese, having never truly shed all those pounds due to her poor diet she was forced to eat during the 1st part of her life. To feel her spine/ribs she felt ‘normal’ in veterinary health speak, but all her weight remained below in her abdomen. We also do not know her true age; I was told she was approx 9 months old when I found her, but went onto hear (during evidence provided in the court case) that she was much older.
We don’t know for sure the exact cause of her demise, but the general opinion was that with all her wee health problems combined, due to the levels of neglect she had endured previously, her’s was a ‘ticking time bomb’ of small, and largely unknown issues. To me it looked as though her heart simply gave out due to the strain.
She was never an ‘easy’ bunny to care for but I cherished every moment I had with her and spent every day fussing over her, making sure all was well and that she was eating OK. It had been well over a year now since she had her last bout of Gut Stasis and things were going well. Albeit she did need to undergo a tooth burr on two of her remaining lower molars, just over 3 weeks prior to her leaving us, she had recovered well and was soon home back to being a bossy bunny.
Loo-loo was such a picky eater, she rarely or indeed, never ate hay and survived largely on pellets, sugar snap pea and green beans, but did enjoy the odd firbafirst stick and dried herbs, particularly marigold and dandelion. She also needed her pellets softened in water due to having most of her molars removed due to advanced dental disease. She was a complex case, very timid and hated change! Whenever she had to accompany her companion to the Vet she always ended up needing syringe feeds too such was her anxieties about being away from home for any length of time. But in saying that, she had gradually come out her shell in the 2 years and 8 months in our care, happily showing a bolder and cheekier side to her nature and liked to keep me on my toes!
My beautiful girl is sorely missed, she took up such a large part of my life from not only nursing her through the early days of her neglect, but gaining her trust, love and friendship. She has left a very big aching gap in my life but I take great comfort in knowing that she was a very happy, loving and often feisty girl who enjoyed every moment of her time with us.
Her’s is quite a long tale but I hope you can honour her by taking the time to not only read, but act and speak out against any issues you come across in our pet shops. I had to fight many battles along the way, not just with her health, but to highlight the numerous problems and neglect that rabbits face within the pet trade and I hope through this, we can show you the steps you can take to help tackle these problems in the hope that one day, things will change for the better and rabbits will cease to be bred and sold so freely through this unregulated industry.
Binky free beautiful baby ❤
Most of us will avoid visiting pet shops that sell Rabbits and other animals as we not only disagree with the selling of our companions in this manner, but we hate to see all those little furry faces without wanting to take them home with us.
But is it really wise to not to take the time to pop into our pet shops to check on the animals?
Loo-loo was found in a poorly run pet shop in Prestwick, Ayrshire during July 2014.
Alone and huddled in a corner of her barren enclosure, she was fed on a fruity muesli mix, no hay, toys or hiding place and her water bottle (as were the other animals) speckled with mould and coated in green slime.
Verbal complaints went unheeded and the owner insisted she was being cared for appropriately. I was soon to learn that she had lived in these conditions for almost 8 months, so I ended up buying her for the reduced price of £15 to ‘get her away’!
As a charity, we strongly advocate adoption and it was never our purpose nor intent to go around purchasing rabbits from pet stores, however after witnessing such horrendous conditions and knowing my complaint was not being taken seriously I ended up leaving store with the rabbit!
I am only human after-all and I could clearly see this girl needed help.
Sadly her ordeal was far from over; once I got her safely in my car, I opened the box to check on and reassure her prior to the journey home and was immediately horrified to find a fresh pool of blood on the floor of the cardboard box the pet shop owner had put Loo-loo in transport!!
I immediately rushed her to a nearby Vet to ascertain the source of this alarming discovery – as it turned out her nails were extremely overgrown and the Pet Shop owner’s rough handling of her during the transaction process he had ripped off one of her claws at the root!!
The Vet was kind enough to carry out a cursory exam and with this we got a glimpse of her overall poor health.
But, little did I know at the time that Loo-loo was one very sick girl; the very next morning I had to arrange an emergency Vet appointment with our own Exotic Specialists at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School’s Rabbit Clinic where she was immediately hospitalised for 4 nights.
In the 4 months after purchase she went onto endure four periods of hospitalisation, several weeks of supportive feeding, medications and two invasive operations to get her back to some level of reasonable health.
She was clinically obese, her bottom compacted with days old, dried faeces and she also had some minor urine scald on the surrounding skin. She suffered numerous bouts of Gut Stasis in the months to come, in addition to having to undergo a dental burr to remove the spurs on her teeth.
A few weeks after she was fit enough to be spayed, yet another health issue arose; a large fatty mass has collected on the internal ‘stump’ site and had adhered to her bowel and bladder restricting her normal bodily movements through her digestive system; this was caused by an accumulation of fatty scar tissue which had grown on the area, requiring key hole surgery to correct.
Meanwhile, complaints against this business were made but sadly and not surprisingly, not upheld!
We complained to the Local Authority’s Licensing Dept and the Scottish SPCA.
Unfortunately as the Licensing Dept saw fit to claim there were no problems in this store and insisted that they could not comment on the Rabbit as she was no longer on the premises (even though it IS a breach of the Terms Of Licence to sell sick animals), and regardless of the Vet reports now in my possession, this basically meant the hand of the SSPCA’s Inspector were tied as the Licensing Dept, who is responsible for overseeing and enforcing our Pet Vending Laws, meant that their decision overruled any concerns the SSPCA’s Inspectors may have held. Unless, of course there is clear evidence of neglect and or cruelty.
We then went onto submit an official complaint to the Council but again, this was only partially upheld; the partial part related to the council not supplying me with the Terms of Licence placed upon the business, as was previously requested during my initial complaint.
We then went through a Conciliation Process via the Council’s Trading Standards Dept, but as the Pet Shop owner insisted he had done no wrong, and all the whilst declaring he was, for want of a better word, a saint, regardless of our Vet reports and unquestionable evidence to the contrary, this again left us with no positive outcome.
Again, this is only a mediation service therefore, Trading Standards could only act as the middle man, setting out the facts and concerns from each party to the other. The process is also a ‘voluntary’ service so therefore the business owner has every right not to take part in these proceedings, if they so wish.
We then complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsmen but once again nothing was done. What we were soon to realise however is that the Ombudsmen were merely interested in council procedure and handling, rather than the actual enforcement of the terms of licence.
Even as we marked the beginning of 2015 we were still pursuing the case and in the end were left with little option other than to lodge a Small Claims Court action against the pet shop owner; this in itself was only to redeem the excessive Vet Fess paid out in much needed, life saving treatments for this girl, which totaled £1285.40 in the space of 4 months from her purchase.
It was thankfully, a success and we won an out of court settlement of £600 from the business during April 2016!
It is our hope, if nothing else, that our success may act as a deterrent to Businesses to ensure correct welfare practices are adhered to and animals are not able to languish and suffer like Loo-loo did in badly managed Pet Shops. But we need more people to act, speak out and bring these issues to the forefront in order to make change for the betterment.
Additionally, we went through these various processes to not only get a grasp on our (and the rabbit’s) ‘rights’ as consumers, but also so we could ascertain the routes open to individuals with valid complaints/or similar experiences on being sold sick animals, in the hope that we demonstrated the options available and that they can, actually succeed, regardless of the often blurry barriers faced. And yes, even the ‘it’s only a rabbit’ attitude!
The structure of the Pet Shop Licensing conditions are very basic in nature and used in conjunction with a vastly outdated item of legislation, Pet Animals Act 1951. Even where Local Authorities have implemented Model Conditions for Pet Vending Licensing 2013 it still comes down to levels of knowledge, training or financial resources as to how these items of law are enforced, if at all.
Yet one key factor is that Licensed Businesses are not allowed to sell sick animals and I clearly was.
Our Pet shops are often rife with problems, we would urge people to pop in and check on conditions as poor practices often go unreported, therefore the problems continue and with that, it is the animals who ultimately suffer.
Our experiences may not bring confidence that the laws work, but it is NOT a fruitless task!
Please take the time to visit Pet Shops and ALWAYS take photo’s or short videos of any concerns you come across. This is NOT illegal: the animals are on display in a public place therefore are not privy to any business or privacy laws.
They have THEIR rights protected by law and it is the duty of that business to adhere to the law.
We as individuals, also have a moral, ethical and legal duty to report on areas of concern, so please take the time to do so.
Complain to the shop management/staff, and if it a serious matter take it further by contacting the Local Authority for the area who is responsible for the Licence upon that business, in addition to the RSPCA/SSCPA and additionally RWAF.
Again, and we can’t stress this enough, always gather evidence in the form of pictures or a short video otherwise it is your word against theirs.
We simply MUST continue to highlight these issues, raise awareness, educate and bring them to the forefront to in order to demand change so that things will improve for the betterment of rabbit welfare.
It is only with more of us speaking out, making complaints to the appropriate regulatory bodies and not just the business itself, that we can give Rabbits a much needed voice.
Thankfully, Loo-loo has a happy ending to her ordeals. She is one of the lucky ones.
This feisty girl has got to be one of the most sweetest natured Buns I have ever known, even after all she has been through.
Not only has she has lost 1kg of weight, she has blossomed in personalty, She is a very lively active and loving young lady, albeit a bit timid at times but most definitely cheeky and at times, demanding.
Earlier this year (2016) Loo-loo’s dental issues deteriorated considerably and she was diagnosed with advanced dental disease which resulted in her having several molars removed, specifically on the right hand side of her mouth.
Thankfully, she recovered quickly from major dental surgery and with that, her character has yet again blossomed. She must’ve been in considerable discomfort for some time, yet she hid it so well!
Remember, even with regular – 6 monthly – dental checks (via use of an Otoscope) the design of a Rabbits’ mouth is such that it is often difficult for even the most experienced Vet to fully see the back teeth and they often rely on tell tale signs such as cuts to the cheeks or tongue in addition to the obvious spurs or spikes. It is also really important that we as owners, monitor our Rabbits’ eating habits on a daily basis, as even the smallest reduction in appetite or behaviour can be a warning that something might not be quite right.
Her diet has improved drastically, however her Hay intake is still fairly minimal but it is slowly improving with time and gentle encouragement.
Thankfully this lovely lady has a hoppy ending to her story & she is now happily bonded with her new Hus-bun Wee Willie Winkie living an indoor free- range carefree life causing mischief, mayhem and slowly but surely showing her true (cheeky) bunny character.