Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund logo - click for high-res version

Major Retailers’ Rabbit Hutches Inhumane, Says Major Animal Charity

2010-08-10

August 10, 2010, Press Dispensary. Britain's largest specialist rabbit welfare charity, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF), is warning that many of the rabbit hutches sold by Britain’s retail chains are so small that keeping rabbits in them is cruel - and could even cause pet owners inadvertently to break the law. The school holidays is a time of year when high volumes of rabbits are sold as children's pets and the welfare organisation is urging retailers to review their ranges of pet rabbit accommodation on sale.

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

- ends -

Notes for editors

About the RWAF
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.

Background notes
 The consensus amongst major UK animal welfare organisations (RWAF, RSPCA, Blue Cross) is that in order to meet the obligations of the Animal Welfare Act, pet rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs, have a diet that closely mimics their natural grass-based diet (i.e. constant access to hay) and be able to run, jump, dig and forage.

 Cramped living accommodation is also known to cause serious behavioural and physical problems in domestic rabbits, with painful skeletal abnormalities being a particular concern.

 The rabbit hutch was invented in Victorian times for meat rabbits with a very short lifespan!

 Home Office guidelines for  lab rabbits include the need for enrichment:

‘Enrichment should include roughage, hay blocks or chew-sticks as well as an area for withdrawal. In floor pens for group housing, visual barriers and structures to provide refuges and look-out behaviour should be provided’

 A hutch 1.2 m long and 0.45m  wide (4ft x 1.5ft approx) gives a floor area of 0.54m2, which is the home office requirement of a rabbit 4-6 kgs. Of course Lab rabbits only live in their enclosures short term.  Pet rabbits, correctly kept, can live 10-12 years.

 The above images are available high res on request.  More photographs of suitable rabbit habitats can be provided also.

 The Animal Welfare Act '5 freedoms' are in full:
o      For a suitable environment.
o      For a suitable diet
o      To exhibit normal behaviour patterns.
o      To be housed with, or apart from, other animals.
o      To be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease.

For additional information and supporting evidence, contact
Rae Todd, Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund
Tel: 07585 701012
Email:
Site: www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.rwaf.org.uk/fbrwaf
YouTube: http://www.rwaf.org.uk/youtube

Media contacts

Rae Todd
Tel: 07585 701012
Email:
Site: www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.rwaf.org.uk/fbrwaf
YouTube: http://www.rwaf.org.uk/youtube

Keywords/tags
animal cruelty rabbit hutch Argos Homebase

Permalink: http://pdpr.uk/en92764/major-retailers-rabbit-hutches-inhumane-says-major-animal-charity.html

Images for download
Click on any image to view or download in higher resolution.

77cm hutch - stretch, are you sure?

77cm hutch - stretch, are you sure?
77cm hutch - stretch, are you sure?
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.
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77cm hutch - stretch, are you sure?

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.

Click to view or download higher resolution image


Run freely in 77cms?

Run freely in 77cms?
Run freely in 77cms?
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.
Ofcourse, rabbits should live in pairs as they are social animals who need to company of their own kind. 2 rabbits would not be able to live in this hutch.
View full size
Download full size
Run freely in 77cms?

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.
Ofcourse, rabbits should live in pairs as they are social animals who need to company of their own kind. 2 rabbits would not be able to live in this hutch.

Click to view or download higher resolution image


RWAF recommended set up compared to the 77cm hutch

RWAF recommended set up compared to the 77cm hutch
RWAF recommended set up compared to the 77cm 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?
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Download full size
RWAF recommended set up compared to the 77cm 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?

Click to view or download higher resolution image