Major Retailers’ Rabbit Hutches Inhumane, Says Major Animal Charity
Argos and Homebase, for example, have been slammed for selling a rabbit hutch that is only 77cm long, which is described by its marketing literature as big enough to allow the rabbits within to "stretch on their hind legs and run freely".
The shocking truth is that this hutch is barely more than half the size of that recommended for rabbits kept in laboratories for experiments - while four separate hutches in the Argos range are smaller than the minimum for lab rabbits. The RWAF points out that this is particularly hypocritical as Argos has earned a 'cruelty free' status from the anti-vivisection group, BUAV, and yet is selling hutches that are deemed too small even for laboratory rabbits.
Laboratory rabbits spend a relatively small amount of time in lab hutches. Domestic rabbits may live in theirs for up to 12 years. And any hutch smaller than 122cm x 45cm (4 x 1½ feet approx) gives a floor area below the minimum requirement for laboratory rabbits.
The RWAF recommends a minimum hutch size for a pair of pet rabbits of 183 x 61 x 61 cm (6 x 2 x 2 feet), with a permanently attached run 244 x 122 x 61 cm (8 x 4 x 2 feet) which gives a total floor space of 4m2 (44 feet2). As the photos on this page ask, does a 77cm hutch really permit adequate stretching and running?
Rae Todd, a spokesperson for the RWAF, says: "Pet rabbits can live in hutches provided they’re big enough for rabbits to hop around, stretch and jump up, and as long as they’re attached to a permanent exercise area. But keeping rabbits cooped up alone in hutches of the type sold by these big retail chains is just tantamount to cruelty.”
The Animal Welfare Act makes it a legal obligation for owners to provide for the welfare needs of their pets, which include:
a. somewhere suitable to live
b. the ability to express normal behaviour
c. being housed with (or apart from) other animals as they require.
The RWAF's point is that rabbit owners cannot meet these legal obligations if they keep their rabbit alone in a hutch, and doing so is inhumane and irresponsible. Indeed, a hutch should only ever be a shelter as part of a larger living area, never the sole accommodation.
Rae Todd continues: “A traditional hutch and run isn't the only way to keep pet rabbits humanely: many people find it easier to adapt a garden shed as rabbit accommodation, build an attractive garden feature from a converted aviary or child's wendy-house or keep them indoors, house trained."
The major UK animal charities (RSPCA, Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) and Blue Cross) agree that pet rabbits need enough space to run and jump - and that a hutch alone is not enough.
Ingrid Tarrant, RWAF Patron, TV personality and author, supports the campaign, saying: "Too many rabbits live in hutches that are too small for them and I find it highly irresponsible of retailers like Argos to encourage rabbit owners to contravene the guidelines of the Animal Welfare Act and to ignore our message. Their attitude amounts to animal cruelty."
For more information about keeping pet rabbits happy and healthy, visit http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk
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Treacle is a Rex rabbit, this is a common breed, and not a giant breed. She clearly can only stretch if the lid is up. The description of allowing the rabbit to 'stretch and run freely' is not accurate in this case.
Treacle is a Rex rabbit, it is a common breed and not a giant breed. She fills most of the hutch, so the product description of allowing the rabbit to 'run freely' inside is not accurate in this case. This is without a food bowl, water bottle and toys inside, there would be even less room, and she is exposed on 2 sides due to the wire side of the hutch.
RWAF recommended set up of a 6ft hutch with an 8ft run permanently attached. Which would you rather live in if you were a rabbit?