Splitting Bonds For A Quick Fix?

There’s nothing more frustrating than managing a waiting list!
As most rescues do, we operate a waiting list for those who are looking for our help to rescue and rehome their unwanted pet rabbits.  Realistically I can’t see a time when we will be able to get rid of such a list, as the number of spaces available within our rescue is dwarfed by the sheer volume of requests we receive every week, with demand coming in from all over the country.
Our desire to help is evidenced by our continuous recruitment for new foster carers to join the team, thus providing us more spaces to bring rabbits in from the list.
But managing the list for us isn’t just about filling our spaces.  For us its also an excellent opportunity to engage with those who are looking for our help to explore other options that may be available.  Our ultimate aim is to ensure the welfare of the rabbits, and sometimes this means helping owners recognise small changes they may be able to make in order to keep the rabbit in their own care.  Or, if that’s not possible, we also help them explore rehoming options to ensure that the rabbits overall welfare needs are meet.
Recently we have had a number of rehoming requests from people who have pairs or small groups, and they are looking for our help to rehome only one of their rabbits.  There are various reasons for this such as difficulties with rabbit bonding, space and accommodation, rabbit temperament and behaviour, health conditions, escaping bunnies and even concerns around landlord restrictions.
Of all our rescue requests, the ones that involve splitting a pair or group, or those that abandon attempts to bond, always concern me the most.  Rabbits are sociable creatures and need company of their own kind at all times, and so the suggestion of keeping any rabbit alone long term for me fails to meet one of their basic animal welfare rights.  As many of you will have experienced when a rabbit in a pair or group passes away, our pets do grieve company too and a forced separation of this sort is also known to trigger a similar grieving process.  This can then have further medical implications such as a stress-induced Gut Intestinal Stasis which in severe conditions can be fatal.
Our typical response to these requests is to recommend our bonding support services, or similar tips & tricks to allow the owners to ensure that the rabbits keep company.  Or, if there is no suitable alternative, our preference would be for the pair or group to enter the rescue together rather than risk the effects of separation.
Our drive to promote such positive consideration for the rabbits welfare is often misunderstood as arrogance or an unwillingness to help.  However, it is actually a much wider consideration for the longer term welfare of the individual rabbits concerned.
Unfortunately, we often find that people who are just looking for a quick solution are tempted by other options, and whilst we have limited space to respond in the manner they wish they turn to these other options and organisations for a quicker fix. 
Just today I received notification from one such individual who I had advised would be best to consider ways to keep his rabbits together.  His female rabbit is an escape artist, and she frequently would work around his attempts to contain her.  Her male buddy was apparently no problem, and so they only wished to rehome her.  I offered some suggested alternatives for the environment to try to further reduce the chance of her escaping, or if these weren’t suitable that he consider surrendering both rabbits to the rescue.  He responded to advise that another organisation had been more understanding of his situation and were willing to take her on her own.
Two rabbits.   Now alone.  And the message of the importance of rabbit company has gone unnoticed.

There’s lots involved in running a rescue.  But for me this is the hardest part.  Managing these expectations of people who have given up on their pets.  People who no longer wish to think about options to keep them, or to ensure the long-term welfare needs are met.  And whilst we will never be in a position to accept all the rabbits into the rescue, our waiting list creaks at the seams and people take the easy way out.  Someone will always take them, even if its not in the best interest of the rabbit.
If you would be interested in helping improve rabbit welfare in Scotland, please consider joining our volunteer team as a foster carer.