The RSPCA fears there will be an increase in the number of abandoned rabbits coming into its care following a huge increase in pet ownership during the lockdown.
As restrictions lift and people’s lives go back to normal, the charity is concerned that for many the ‘novelty’ may wear off and they will see numbers of rabbits coming into its centres and branches.
In 2020, there were 1,174 abandoned rabbits reported to the RSPCA’s cruelty line and the RSPCA took in 2,653 rabbits altogether – which means 44% of all rabbits coming into the charity’s care last year were abandoned.
This Rabbit Awareness Week (28 June to 4 July), the RSPCA is highlighting why rabbits are not ‘easy, starter pets’ but are actually complex animals to care for and urging anyone who may have bought a rabbit on impulse during the lockdown to reach out for help if they’re struggling.
Dr Jane Tyson, RSPCA rabbit welfare expert, said: “Unfortunately, we do see many rabbits abandoned and rescued by our officers.
“We suspect that in many cases these rabbits have been bought on impulse as ‘starter pets’ for children but owners quickly realise that they’re complex animals to care for and sadly they end up coming into our rescue centres.
“We have seen a huge demand in pet ownership during the lockdown with Google searches for ‘Rabbits for sale’ rising from 23,000 in April 2019 to 40,000 in April 2020, and whilst it’s lovely that so many people have sought the companionship of a pet, we’re concerned that this boom will mean many people may not have done their research properly and could struggle to care for them once the lockdown ends, or the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic takes its toll.
“This is something we’re already starting to see with many of our centres and branches reporting that they were overrun with rabbits back in April.”
Many of the RSPCA’s centres have seen rabbits coming into their care that have been unneutered or mis-sexed and had an unexpected litter.
Whilst baby rabbits may be cute, they are costly and time consuming to look after.