You’ll have heard us banging on about rabbit welfare for sometime now – it’s fairly obvious that we’re keen to educate the public about the best way to care for their rabbit. But where do we get the idea that there’s a problem? How do we know what’s right and what’s not right for the welfare of our beloved pets? After all, the advice we’re giving is vastly different to that of 20 years ago, and rabbits have now been domesticated for centuries. So do we really need to change how we care for our rabbits, or are the team at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care just a little bit over protective?
During Rabbit Awareness Week, we thought it would be helpful for us to explain a little bit more about why we think there is such a problem with rabbit welfare in the UK, and in particular a noticeable issue with it in the West of Scotland!
Before we even look into the vast amount of research that has been completed on rabbit behaviours and health, we need only look as far as the Animal Welfare Act for advice.
The Five Freedoms are set out in the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 and apply to all animals including rabbits. They are as follows:-
- Freedom from hunger and thirst – by providing fresh water and the right type and amount of food to keep them fit.
- Freedom from discomfort – by making sure that animals have the right kind of environment including shelter and somewhere comfortable to rest.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease – by preventing them from getting ill or injured and by making sure animals are diagnosed and treated rapidly if they do.
- Freedom to behave normally – by making sure animals have enough space, proper facilities and the company of other animals of their own kind.
- Freedom from fear and stress – by making sure their condition and treatment avoid mental suffering.
Our understanding of what these freedoms means in terms of our rabbits then is where the research comes in to place. The vet industry alongside various animal welfare charities and universities have studied rabbit behaviour and health in detail in recent years, and it is this research that can influence how we apply the concepts of the Animal Welfare Act to our care of rabbits.
We’ve created an easy to remember phrase that will help you meet the 5 freedoms for your rabbits: Rabbits Need SHEDS.
S: Space – this addresses freedoms number 2, 3, 4 and 5.
H: Health – this addresses freedoms number 1 and 3.
E: Exercise – this addresses freedoms 2, 3 and 4
D: Diet – this addresses freedoms number 1 and 3
S: Stimulation – this addresses freedoms 4 and 5.
Throughout Rabbit Awareness Week, we’re going to explore each of these 5 concepts (SHEDS) in more detail.
Note, another useful phrase to remember is that Rabbits Need SECS (Space, Exercise, Company & Stimulation). This phrase is heavily promoted by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund.