Welfare Legislation vs Neglect

with thanks to Just Rabbits for their support

The Sale of Neglect vs Current Legislation

Pet shops have long sold Rabbits animals under the outdated, common misconception that they are a cheap and easy pet in addition to the ideal, low maintenance, cute and cuddly starter pet for children!

This is simply NOT the case.

Rabbits have specific fundamental welfare needs; as a natural, ground dwelling prey species they neither like loud noises or being lifted up, carried around and or overly handled.          

Additionally rabbits hide signs of illness; these signs can range from the subtle to the extreme, a child is simply NOT responsible enough to provide full and proper care; children also easily bore when the novelty of the cute and cuddly pet wears off, often the Rabbit will bite and scratch due to the stresses of being kept in such an alien situation and through mishandling by the loud, eager child.

This is not to say that’s rabbits don’t make good pets, the truth is THEY DO when cared for properly.

Rabbits are highly intelligent, active, fun, loving and clean animals who form strong bonds with their owner(s) therefore they make the ideal companion pets for the FAMILY.

The best way to interact with them is to get down on the floor to their level or allow them to hop up next to you.

cheryl and dylan
Bunny Dylan and carer Cheryl courtesy of Lumpy Lodge Rescue

Other common Pet Shop Problems

To the untrained eye it can be very difficult to correctly sex a rabbit; rabbits are frequently sold mis-sexed to unsuspecting customers leading to a whole range of welfare issues and problems to the pet owner.

Respiratory issues are a common illness in Pet Shops; Pasteurella is highly contagious and passed on via poor hygiene, sharing water bottles and food bowls.

Skin conditions such as Mites are common too.

The correct care advice is rarely given – Pet shops simply DO NOT stress to the customers that rabbits are complex animals with specific, and all too often, expensive needs. They continue to sell products with no real ‘consumer’ safeguards that are in reality detrimental to Rabbits’ overall health and welfare needs.

Animals housed in overly small, brightly light enclosures with no stimulation, hiding place nor provided with the correct diet.

Remember, Rabbits need Hay! Lack of the correct diet in the early months and throughout life can lead to expensive veterinary treatments for the unsuspecting owner.

Young animals sold in the colder months to be housed outdoors – as babies, they have not had time to build up a winter coat and they will miss the warmth of the shop, and of course, their litter mates/mother!

Current Legislation

The Pet Animals Act 1951

This act provides the basis for Pet Shop Licencing Regulations and the conditions and responsibilities of the retailer granted Licence to sell live animals.           

These regulations are regularly flouted, problems found have related to Stocking Densities, Suitable Environments, Period of Acclimatisation, Provision of Veterinary Care, and animals housed with others in direct conflict with the welfare needs of individual species.

We have issued reports to Licencing bodies regularly in regards to several of these breaches, yet often our complaints go unanswered and we find little is rarely done to rectify problems areas found.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 – The 5 freedoms

This legislation also relates to keepers, not just owners; pet shops are temporary keepers of stock animals we would argue that they too should be accountable for complying with this legislation, and as such pet shops are frequently seen to breach these legal requirements in regards to providing the correct welfare needs of each species in their care.

Further relevant legislation that relates to the sale of Rabbits and suitable products is the Sales Of Goods Act 1979.            

Within the Pet Trade, animals are still deemed as products and as such we would argue, as pet owners, potential or existing, and as consumers buying goods, pets or products from Pet Shops and related supply outlets, we are in fact being sold neglect, or indeed being mis-sold animals under the outdated notion that they are cheap and easy to care, without full and proper understanding on full commitment these animals bear when providing for their welfare, the expense of providing for that care, dietary and, or Veterinary, in addition to the sale products, housing and dietary, which are harmful to health.

Pet Shops are perceived to be the experts, so why do they continue to sell products that harm health and Rabbits without fully understanding their needs nor explaining them properly to YOU??

So in summary, we have got to ask, why is current legislation rarely ever enforced when it comes to rabbits?

Basically, the laws are not just largely outdated but rarely enforced; we strongly believe it is time for legislative reform in order to give our most neglected pets improved overall welfare protection. Please lend us your support for our Buns. Thank you!


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