Maya: Left to Starve with a Wounded Foot

This post contains some graphic and potentially upsetting images below.

On Tuesday night, we welcomed Maya into our care.

We regularly see rabbits that have been casually neglected entering the rescue – rabbits that are underweight, overweight, stained in their own urine, caked in their own faeces, front teeth extending half-way up their face, riddled with ear and fur mites.  It sometimes feels like there isn’t anything we haven’t seen.

But it doesn’t make it any easier when one such case arrives at our door.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, I received a call from someone looking for help to rehome their rabbit – nothing unusual in that as I receive several calls and emails of this nature every day.  I listened to the gentlemen explain his circumstances – he’d recently had cause to move home into a flat and the landlord had a no pets policy and so the rabbit needed somewhere else to go.  I explained that we didn’t have any immediate vacancies available within the rescue due to high demands (as always) but that I could place him on our rehoming waiting list.  He then advised that he had surrendered two rabbits to us earlier in the year, and was struggling to find the help he needed.

Next, he advised, “just to let you know”, that the rabbit had managed to escape her enclosure approximately a month ago and appeared to have been attacked by a cat or something and had a damaged foot which was “absolutely fine now”.  This immediately gave me concern.  I asked what the vet advice had been for treating the foot and was advised that she had never attended a vet at all.

This changed things immediately, and whilst I genuinely didn’t have any space available I knew I had to do something.  I knew that somehow, by the end of the night, I would have found a way to find space for her somewhere, but I just had to make sure this wee girl was safe and that her foot was ok.  I asked her owner if he would be able to bring her to us later that day when our care team shift started, and he agreed to bring her in.

Later on, Tuesday evening, when our care shift clocked on for the night, the owner was already waiting for us at the door.

Maya arrived in a crisp box, with no bedding or any attempt to make her feel comfortable for the trip to the rescue.

I take great pride in our charity’s management of owners who have perhaps got things wrong when it comes to the care of their rabbits.  With so many myths, and a complete lack of education around rabbit welfare across the pet industry, vet industry and even school education, it is very easy to think you are doing the right thing whilst getting it completely wrong!  So, we prefer to educate owners about the mistakes they have made, as opposed to scorn or judge them.  We explain what they could have done to improve things and what we will do for the rabbits whilst they are in our care to get them back on track.

Maya was severely malnourished.  We use body condition scoring techniques to assess a rabbit’s condition, but it wasn’t necessary in this case – a basic visual check on seeing Maya and it was obvious that she had been casually starved.  As I assessed her further, I overheard her owners telling a volunteer colleague, Lynne, about her typical diet.  They listed a string of all the right foods: nuggets, grass, daily veg of various types; a smorgasbord of food options that would make even the greediest rabbit struggle to finish their dinner.  They did say the only issue they had was that they just couldn’t get her to eat hay.

I checked for signs of diet-related illnesses – something that might explain why she would be so thin whilst enjoying such a good quality of food.  The usual signs were not there and whilst I can’t rule it out completely without a vet assessment, I was confident that the list of food was at best exaggerated, but in all honesty much more likely to be a fable.  All too often owners feel the need to tell us what they think we want to hear when asking about a rabbit’s history, whilst the reality is we just need to know the truth so we can make the right decisions about their care moving forward.

I then turned my attention to the part of her assessment I knew I must prioritise, but I had been dreading.  I looked for the damaged foot.

Her foot was redraw, with a large scabbed wound where one of her toes should have been.  There was some indication of infection and several other scabbed areas.  It was obvious that the foot had not really received any attention at all, and Maya had essentially been left to tend to her own injuries for goodness knows how long.

It was at this point that my level of understanding had reached its limits.  There is a level of general ignorance I have come to expect over the years, but this case was different.  Nobody could reasonably consider this rabbit to “be ok”, or that it was acceptable to have left an injury of this scale untreated.  I couldn’t just sit back and not say anything.

As Lynne completed the surrender paperwork, I sat in front of the owners and calmly but sternly advised that Maya “was not ok”, and that in fact, in my opinion, she was very unwell!  I explained that she was malnourished, which aside from causing issues in itself would further impact her ability to recover from her foot.  I explained that it was never acceptable for the foot to have been left unattended and that a vet visit should have been an immediate priority.  I explained that we would do everything that we could to help her, but in all reality, the odds were against her.  I was not sure whether her foot could be saved as it would need a professional opinion, but surgery options would be limited due to her physical condition and there was a risk that she may lose the foot completely.  In no uncertain terms I advised that this was a borderline criminal offence to have allowed a rabbit to suffer to this degree and whilst I did not intend to report them formally for it, it was my opinion that they should never consider rabbit ownership again in the future.

The man seemed shocked at my direct approach, offered a courtesy “Sorry, I didn’t realise” and left shortly afterwards.

We called upon one of our volunteers, Lauren, who is a registered vet nurse.  Lauren dropped everything to jump down to the office to help us provide immediate care.

Whilst waiting for Lauren to arrive, Maya settled into one of our temporary living spaces in the office and immediately started to wolf into various foods and treats we offered.  She lapped water from her bowl in a manner that indicated she had been denied water for some time. Within minutes she was pulling strands of hay from the feeder and thoroughly enjoying every bite.  A number of us commented on how quickly she seemed to relax into the environment.  For a rabbit to settle into eating so quickly after the stress of changing environments and the pain she must have been experiencing was an indication to us as to how rare it was for her to access food

It was comforting for us to think that she may be eating so well in recognition that she was now, at last, safe.

After enjoying some food she started to groom herself and I noticed how intently she focused in on her damaged foot – again in a manner that indicated it was still causing pain and irritation for her.

Maya had been kept as an outdoor rabbit but given her condition and the level of care we think she will need, we decided that placing her with an indoor foster carer was best.  Whilst all this was going on, other members of the team were dealing with another rabbit arrival due to go to our only vacant indoor placement the same evening, and so it was a mad dash of phone calls to re-arrange things and secure safe spaces for both the rabbits.  As always, our team of foster carers were very understanding and accommodating and within no time at all, we had secured the right spaces within our network to allow them both somewhere warm and safe, without compromising on their need for adequate space and levels of care.

When Lauren arrived we agreed that there was nothing an emergency out of hours service could offer in this case, and our objective was simply to try to make her more comfortable for the night until we could get her to a vet the following day for a full assessment.  With some consultation online with a veterinary colleague, we decided it was best, for now, to clean up the foot as much as possible – clearing away as much of the scabbing and infection – and offering some pain meds.

Maya sat perfectly as we gently worked away cleaning her foot.  She was obviously suffering, but extremely well behaved.

Once we had finished her foot was looking a lot better – still very raw and sore, but at least clean now.

We agreed on a plan of action with Maya’s foster carers, Lynette and Robbie, settled her into a comfortable pet carrier, and she headed off home for the night.

It was a tough night for the care team, and I don’t hide from the fact that we had a real mix of feelings, and many tears were shed.  We shared so much sympathy for Maya, that she had found herself in this sorry situation, unable to control her fate and unable to help herself.  We shared disgust and anger that someone had allowed her to get into this situation at all, not just in terms of her injury but to let her get so thin too.  We shared hope and joy as we watched her relax so quickly and enjoy her food, treats and water.  And we shared relief knowing that whilst there was still so much work to do, she now at least had a chance to get better.

It’s now Wednesday, and as I sit here waiting to hear about her vet assessment and writing out the tale to share with you, I am still in shock that someone allowed her to get in this state.  Is it anger that I feel?  I don’t think so – it would be all too easy to get angry about this.  But for me, it is more than anger.

My feelings stretch to deep concern, not just for Maya but the hundreds if not thousands more rabbits in our communities right now who are going unnoticed, suffering from a range of ills and pains, whilst owners are oblivious to their failings to provide the right level of care needed.

I feel frustrated that our legal system, both through legislation and enforcement, means that whilst this kind of treatment exists there is little in real-terms we can do to act upon it: why do things need to get to an extreme or volume before we can intervene and secure prosecution or bans?  I am thankful for organisations like Advocates for Rabbit Welfare who continue to fight our legal systems to secure better protection for pet rabbits and hopeful for change in the near future.

I am confused how, in a modern society such as ours, our basic understanding of animal welfare does not provide individuals with the common sense needed to recognise when an animal, rabbit or otherwise, is in pain, distress or hunger.  What wrongs are within our education system that allows something so basic to be overlooked?

And I feel grateful that I am part of a team of passionate “rabbit nutters”, some of whom gave up their Tuesday night to be there when it mattered.  It may have only helped one rabbit on this occasion, but we are all optimistic that we have made a significant difference for her.

This post was authored by David Bell, Director of Beloved Rabbits.

Welfare Check Team, Kirkintilloch

Apply To Join Our Team Today

If you think you have what it takes to help care for rabbits in our short-term facilities and to introduce them to their new owners, get in touch today.

Welfare Check Team

For volunteers aged from 18 years.

Our Welfare Check Team are responsible for doing our morning checks on the rabbits in our care at The Hoppy Hub in Kirkintilloch (G66).

As a team member you will be responsible for checking in on the rabbits and ensuring that their basic welfare needs are met - hay supply is topped up, water supply is checked and the health and welfare of each rabbit is checked to make sure everybunny is feeling good!

There may be a need to assist with taking rabbits to urgent or routine appointments with one of our local vet practices if required too.

Importantly, we invite our Welfare Check Team members to spend some time with the rabbits within our care.  Basic socialisation with the rabbits is a very important part of what we do to prepare rabbits for their new homes.

We are looking for individuals who can spare approx. 1 hour at least one morning per week, with flexibility around the timing to suit your other commitments as appropriate (visits should take place at some point between 7am and 11am).

Initial Induction Training

You will be required to shadow our evening shift (typically 6.30pm until 8.30pm) on at least two occasions to allow for necessary induction training for this role.

Ongoing Support

You will have access to a dedicated emergency reporting helpline during your shift.

You will also be invited to regular team meetings for important updates and training on an ongoing basis.

As with all our volunteers, you will also be invited to our volunteer collaboration system online to engage and chat about your role and rabbit welfare with the whole team.

Apply To Join Our Team Today

If you think you have what it takes to help care for rabbits in our short-term facilities and to introduce them to their new owners, get in touch today.

Rabbit Care Team, Kirkintilloch

Apply To Join Our Team Today

If you think you have what it takes to help care for rabbits in our short-term facilities and to introduce them to their new owners, get in touch today.

Rabbit Care Lead

For volunteers aged 18 years or over only

Supporting a team of young people whilst conducting a range of rabbit care duties and public appointments at our Kirkintilloch facilities.

Min. commitment 2 hours per week

Rabbit Care Asst.

For volunteers aged 12 - 18 years

Help us feed the rabbits, clean their environment, give medications and importantly socialise the rabbits as part of preparing them for their new homes.

Min. commitment 2 hours per week

Ready to find out more?

Want to chat about what's involved in volunteering with Beloved Rabbits?  Book a call for an informal and no-obligation chat.

Rabbit Care Lead

For volunteers aged 18 years or over.

PVG Scheme membership will be required, and is organised by Beloved Rabbits.

Our Rabbit Care Leads, working from our facilities in Kirkintilloch, Glasgow (G66), provide three core functions for the charity during their 2 hour shift each week:

  • Supervision, support, coaching and development of our young volunteers as they undertake rabbit care duties.
  • Meeting with members of the public as they meet the charity on an appointment basis for adoptions, bonding and surrenders.
  • Providing first level day-to-day care for the rabbits including feeding, cleaning environments, grooming, medication and socialisation.

As a senior member of the rabbit care team, you will help support and mentor our young volunteers as you work together to provide the full range of care needs of the rabbits visiting and within our care.

As a care lead you will help support the charity by conducting a range of appointments including rescue surrenders, adoptions, bonding services, care advice, grooming and nail clipping with foster carers and members of the public.

Each members of the PVG Scheme, they will offer the essential support needed for our Care Assistants to develop their knowledge and skills in rabbit welfare.  They will also have completed a certified Child Safeguarding course.

Full training & support will be given for the role.


Our current Care Lead vacancies are currently:

Sundays, 4pm to 6pm 
** Vacancy Available (1) **

Not For You?

If you are looking for something a little different, or your availability doesn't suit this role, why not consider our Welfare Check Team?

Apply To Join Our Team Today

If you think you have what it takes to help care for rabbits in our short-term facilities and to introduce them to their new owners, get in touch today.

Rabbit Care Assistant

For volunteers aged 12 to 18 years

This role is best suited to young people with an interest in animal welfare studies or careers after school

Rabbit Care Assistants provide all aspects of care needed including feeding, grooming, medications and treatments and socialisation.

Care Assistants work in small teams, with each team working closely with a Rabbit Care Lead and one of the charity's Management Committee during their shift.

In addition there will be an ongoing training and support programme ( that will support the Care Assistants to develop their knowledge and understanding of rabbit welfare as they volunteer, with recognition given at regular intervals of their development and hours volunteering.  As well as providing a strong background and evidence should the Care Assistant be seeking career or training opportunities within animal welfare, this will prepare them well for future opportunities within and outwith the charity.

Our Care Assistant volunteers aged 12 to 18, will be offered full supervision, support and direction from their Care Lead, who will be a verified member of the PVG Scheme (incorporating a Disclosure Scotland check) and will have completed a Child Safeguarding course.

Full training & support will be given for the role.


Our current Care Assistant vacancies are:

** No Current Vacancies **

Volunteer Application – Education Team

Thank you for your interest in joining our education team.

The information provided on this form will allow us to gain a better understanding of you and is used to progress an application further.

Please note, that we can only accept education team applications from those aged 16 years and over.

Please complete the questions honestly and as accurately as possible.

Once we have received the completed form, we can contact you to make further arrangements for an informal interview which may take place by telephone or at our appointments office in Kirkintilloch (G66).

Education Team Application

Ready to Apply?

*Denotes a required field.

Your Contact & Home Details


Application Information


Volunteer Application – Fundraising & Events Teams

Thank you for your interest in volunteering for one of our Fundraising & Events teams. Please complete the application below, and we will be in touch shortly.


Rabbit Rescue Charity Become Beloved Rabbits

Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care was established by husband and wife team David and Feona Bell in December 2010 and has addressed a growing need and demand for rabbit welfare services throughout Scotland.
Since establishing as a foster-based and rabbit-dedicated rescue, we have rescued over 1,300 rabbits, and improved the welfare standards of countless thousands more!
2019 brings a lot of opportunities for us to further improve rabbit welfare and the way we deliver our services to the public, and most importantly the rabbits within our care.

In the future we plan to open new purpose-built facilities aimed at providing better accommodation for rabbits in our care, improved bonding support services, and educational and awareness facilities.  And in the meantime, we progress plans to achieve as much of this as we can in interim premises such as "The Bunny Bothy" appointment office and "The Hoppy Hub" activity space.

To help ensure a firm standing for the charity's future the Office of the Scottish Charity Registrar (OSCR) has approved our formation of a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.  As part of the process it is was necessary for us to amend our organisation's name slightly, and we felt that Beloved Rabbits had the hoppy sound to it that represented everything about what we do.

As we establish ourselves under our new brand and charity structure there will be a short period where we may operate under both charities, before Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care is completely disbanded.

Burrow Building Project

Find out about our plans to identify funding for a new purpose designed rabbit rescue and adoption centre, incorporating space for improved rabbit welfare education & awareness. All underpinned by the benefits of our existing and very much important foster care model.

It’s early days for the Burrow Building project, and we will soon share a lot more about this as we begin to build up the funds needed to turn this vision into reality. If you would like to find out more in the meantime please just get in touch.

And if you are an SEIB Insurance Brokers customer check your emails for an opportunity to vote for Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care in their recent Charity Grant competition. FBRC are one of 8 charities in with a chance to win £50k towards our project.

Peter Rabbit: Good or Bad For Rabbit Welfare?

Peter Rabbit Official Promotional Poster

Peter Rabbit Official Promotional PosterThe new Peter Rabbit movie is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th March 2018, but already the hype is building.  With it’s own controversies already getting the film some negative coverage around the portrayal of bullying rabbits with fruit allergies, the questionable selection of voice actors and the attempts to replace Mr McGregor with a fitter, younger model it is still set to be one of this year’s big blockbuster hits – especially with kids.

So as a rabbit rescue, what do we make of all this fresh attention on rabbits?

It remains to be seen when the film hits the UK’s shores how accurately the behaviours and welfare needs of rabbits will be depicted in the film.  From the trailers we can already see a heavy reference to carrots, further confusing the myths about rabbit’s natural diet.

The big risk though is that there will be a further increase in the number of families looking to bring home a rabbit as a family pet for the kids, and often without the upfront research that should be part of such a large decision.  And so we anticipate that we will notice an increase in rabbit surrenders to the rescue within a few months of the film’s release.  Perhaps we should add a new surrender reason code to our shelter systems before September comes along when the young rabbits hormones are developing and the cute little baby rabbit develops into a lonely, hormonal adult rabbit.  Watch out for the “Peter Rabbit Movie Effect” reason code displaying on our website in just a few months 😉

The media image of a cute, cuddly, friendly, cheap and easy pet rabbit is rarely achievable.  The PDSA PAW report year-on-year demonstrates that as many as 65% of pet rabbits in the UK are still not getting their basic needs met.  The common areas people are falling short are in relation to the need for rabbits to be kept in pairs or small groups, the need for suitable living and exercise space as well as feeding an appropriate diet.

It is no secret that the ease by which families can buy a rabbit compounds the overall welfare issue.  Whilst you can walk in to a pet shop, visit a local breeder or even select a free rabbit from classifieds online without any checks being done on your understanding of their needs or what space, housing, finances and time you have for them it is always going to be the rabbits that lose out to the whimsical and disposable nature so many of the UK still view rabbit ownership.

We stand in readiness for the bunny excitement that comes every Easter, and scurrying around in the background are preparing for a bigger impact thanks to Peter, Benjamin, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and their woodland friends.  It should be an exciting time for us, looking forward to watching a relaxing movie about our favourite animal.  The reality is the prospect of the film leaves me fearing for the worst.

Loose Bunny Rescue


It is always a challenge when we get a rescue request through by phone or via the website as we assess the circumstances and determine the priority against all those already on our waiting list.  There are some cases though that we try to respond to immediately.

Last Friday we received contact from an owner requesting help with rehoming her four rabbits, which were also advertised elsewhere as free to a good home.  We immediately started to get things organised and offered space within the rescue.

However, it took until last night to get the owner to authorise us to come to collect the rabbits from her property.  The rabbits, now only 3 of them, were described as being two females and a single male, so we were concerned there may be pregnancies.  They were also now running free-range in the garden and the neighbours property as the owners could not capture the bunnies.

We offered to attend as a small team so we could use our experience of handling rabbits to capture them and get them in to the rescue.

As I am sure many of you know, chasing rabbits round a garden where they can hide underneath sheds, behind hutches and even squeeze under the fence in to the neighbours garden is far from easy!

As you can see from the photos below, we were successful and all three bunnies are now settling in with us here.  Thankfully, they are all female and appear to get on well together at the moment.  There may still be a risk of pregnancies depending on what other rabbits they were recently housed with. 

We have given them the rescue nicknames Tribble, Uhura and Kathryn Janeway as part of January’s “Sci-Fi & Fantasy” naming theme.