Tag: a hutch is not enough

Storm Damage – The Aftermath & Prevention.

Bad weather can cause serious problems for outdoor pets. High winds can easily fell trees, damage hutches, blow over fences and if severe, can even knock over sheds! Heavy rain and snow can cause flooding and all of these things are highly stressful for rabbits to endure.

Photo Courtesy of E M Tigra.

This shed was blown over by the severe winds caused by #stormdoris which reached up to 94mph in parts of the UK. Its a dramatic reminder that we can never take it for granted that an outdoor enclosure is going to be safe.

Photo Courtesy of Hopper Haven Sanctuary.

Storm Doris also caused this huge conifer to crash down on top of 3 rabbit hutches at the Hopper Haven Rabbit & Guinea Pig Sanctuary – causing significant damage to the hutches and a storage shed. Luckily no animals or staff were injured but the clean up effort and repairs are going to cost over £900! (see here if you would like to make a donation).

Photo Courtesy of L Smart.

Even if your enclosures survive intact, your garden may be severely damaged. This fallen wall could have easily caused harm to people or pets and will mean the garden is not predator proof or rabbit safe until all the repairs have been undertaken. It’s vital that you check your garden after any bad weather, to look for  breaches in security and damaged or weakened areas.

Photo Courtesy of A Anderson.

Less serious damage can happen at any time from our normal winter weather. This hutch has had its felt ripped off of the roof meaning it is no longer waterproof. Hutch covers can also become torn over time and its important to check the integrity of all enclosures and their covers on a regular basis.

Floor level enclosures are liable to flooding.

Many ‘off the shelf’ enclosures do not withstand bad weather well. For example, the above photo shows a hutch that is flush with the floor so has no protection against flooding. It also has owner reports of “leaking so badly that bathroom sealant had to be applied to all the joints”. Conversely, hutches on tall legs are not at risk from flooding BUT they can easily topple over in high winds. Tunnels (either man made or dug by rabbits) can easily flood and trap a rabbit to one part of its enclosure. Many cheap, pet store hutches and runs are badly made, easily damaged and are false economy as rarely last more than a year without needing some repairs.

Lastly, there is a huge problem with bad weather that is often over looked – STRESS! Even rabbits in secure enclosures that do not get damaged are often spooked by high winds and heavy rain. As they are a prey species, they suffer easily from stress and this often leads to Gastro Intestinal stasis. They can stop eating, stop passing faeces and become very unwell in just a few hours. It is vital that you closely monitor your rabbits both during and for a few days after bad weather. You may decide to move them into a more secure location such as a garage (not safe if a car uses it too) or utility room when there is a storm on the way. If so, make sure the temperature of the room is as close as possible to that of their normal enclosure and try to keep to their normal routine. As always, seek veterinary advice if you are concerned about your rabbits health.

So what CAN Be Done?

Prevention is always better than cure so it is important to really think long and hard about your rabbits outdoor set up before the adverse weather arrives. Take the time to think about how the enclosure will cope with extreme weather – both hot and cold, dry, wet and windy. Remember that the RWAF enclosure guidelines state that a pair of average sized rabbits need permanent access to a minimum space of 10ft x 6ft which comprises of a sleeping area and an exercising area.

The photo above has been chosen as it represents an ideal rabbit enclosure. It is made of good quality materials and is seated on a level, concrete base. It meets the RWAF minimum size guidelines and has permanent access to secure sleeping and exercising areas. The base is slightly raised off of the floor and the run has low level boarding – both of which help prevent flooding. The roof is slanted and has a wide overhang which helps prevent the rain from running down the sides of the enclosure. It also has plenty of ventilation as well as having cozy areas in the sleeping compartment. Multiple levels allow the rabbits to exhibit natural behaviors and increase their area by making use of the vertical space.

Now, this style may not be a viable option for all owners, however the principles are still valid. Make sure your enclosures follow the same points as above even if you are using a mix and match set up. Here are some more tips:

  • Anchor / screw down hutches and runs to the floor and also fix them back to a fence, wall or shed to reduce the chance of them toppling over.
  • Make sure your enclosures are raised off of the ground and attach clear perspex sheeting to the lower quarter to help prevent flooding (do not cover the whole enclosure as good ventilation is vital).
  • If you use tunnels, raise them off the ground during bad weather to reduce the risk of flooding.
  • Make sure the enclosure has a slanted roof and add some guttering to allow drainage to a safe place away from the hutch.

Lastly – buy the best you can afford as quality items really do make a difference. Don’t be fooled by price or marketing blurb, check out owner reviews that are NOT on the manufacturers website (try rabbit forums instead) to ensure you get an all round, non biased view of the product.

 

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Keeping Outdoor Pets Safe

Sadly our gardens may not be as safe as we think they are. Many owners of small pets will be aware of potential problems from predators such as foxes, cats and dogs but are unaware of the threat from other humans.

There has been a sharp rise in incidents over the past few years where rabbits (and other small furries) have been stolen from gardens. The reasons behind this are varied and vile. Many are stolen to use as bait for dog fights, or for their fur coats. Sometimes children have been deliberately taking pets to ‘play’ with and others have been stolen out of malice.

So I urge ALL pet owners to ensure their gardens are as safe as possible, not only from the threat of natural predators, but from humans too. There are a range of things you can do:

  1. Secure Enclosures.
    It may sound obvious, but if you have a small furry then make sure it is always INSIDE a secure environment that is fully enclosed. Its vital they have room to exercise so make sure it meets the RWAF minimum size guidelines (for rabbits). If you let your rabbits free range then please ONLY do so whilst you are also in the garden to supervise them.
  2. Padlocks.
    Make sure that both the pets enclosures AND the garden gates are secured using heavy duty padlocks. Also make sure you have a spare set of these keys in a safe but easily accessible place in the house in case of emergency.
  3. Garden Fencing.
    Its important that your fencing is secure and at least 6ft tall. You can add trellis on to the top of fencing to make it even higher. Then, grow thorny plants like roses or blackberries up the fence to make it more uncomfortable for people to climb over. You can also use prikka strips, which are hard rubber spikes that attach to the tops of fences. This is mainly to stop cats entering your garden but it can also help deter humans.
  4. CCTV.
    Although it will not physically stop anyone from entering your garden, it can be a good visual deterrent. Also, it can be useful in capturing evidence if someone does manage to get in. You can also use posters / stickers on the outside of the fence to show that CCTV is in operation.
  5. Lighting.
    Movement activated flood lights can be a good deterrent. have them pointed at the garden gate / back door rather than directly at the rabbits enclosure otherwise the bunnies will keep setting the light off!
  6. Neighborhood Watch Schemes.
    Anyone can sign up to start a scheme and these can be very beneficial to the whole street. Posters and stickers can be obtained that clearly show that the houses are part of a scheme. This can act as a good deterrent for people looking for mischief.
  7. Rubbish Bins.
    Don’t store your bins outside your garden fence as this makes it easier for someone to climb over the fence!

So make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your pets safe. Never leave them in the garden free range if they are unsupervised and take as many steps as possible to keep your garden and all its contents secure.

 

 

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Premier Small Animal Show – Good Advice or Promoting Abuse?

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EDIT: 4.2.16 – Burgess have announced they will no longer support the Harrogate Show. Thank you Burgess for making a stand for rabbit welfare.
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Widely promoted as ‘the UK’s biggest small animal show’, the Burgess Premier Small Animal show has been held in Harrogate since 1921. It is a meet up for breeders of rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, chinchillas and more who enjoy showing the best of their stock and hope to come away as winners. As my expertise is in rabbits – this will be the species I focus on here. The Guardian has posted an interesting article on the most recent 2016 show.

 

BUT AT WHAT PRICE?

Rabbit handling at the 2007 Excel show in Harrogate. CC:BY-NC-ND

  Rabbit handling at the 2007 Excel show in Harrogate. CC:BY-NC-ND.

Photos from the event and those from previous events (see above), show some common handling techniques used at shows. For example, rabbits being held on their backs. This is called ‘trancing’ or ‘tonic immobility’. This has been proven to be very stressful for rabbits (as well as increasing the risk of a back injury). As they are prey species, this is an auto response they enter when tipped over. See here for more info on trancing. Many people use this method of handling for checking, grooming and judging rabbits and many refuse to change their ways and disregard the scientific facts. Many top organizations and specialists do not agree with trancing, including The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) who are the UK’s largest organization dealing with domestic rabbit welfare.

The British Rabbit Council (BRC) are the UK governing body for fur and fancy rabbits. When previously questioned about trancing, they were adamant that this was NOT a part of their routine handling – yet it seems, this happens all too often AND at BRC approved events by BRC approved judges.

Also some of these photos show that the judge is grasping the ears as part of the support / restraint. This method can easily cause damage and pain to the rabbit and is not recommended as a standard form of acceptable and safe handling.

 

BUT SURELY THE ENCLOSURES ARE OK?

Example of show cages. 2007

        Example of show cages in 2007

Sadly not – as you can see they are tiny, one rabbit per cage, wood shavings for bedding, some don’t even have food and / or hay (hay and fresh water should be available to a rabbit 24/7). Thankfully no cages were observed that did not have a water available. Each rabbit can be stuck in these cages for many hours, some will spend the entire day there. Surely this doesn’t meet the Five Freedoms welfare standards? Is this even legal if you consider the Animal Welfare Act 2006?

 

Wire floor show cage

         Wire floor show cage

The photo above (taken by me in 2007) shows the types of cages that the long haired rabbits have to sit in. They have wire bottoms as clearly shown in the picture. Wire floors are not recommended by welfare organizations and rabbit specialists as they can cause pain and damage to the feet. See this RSPCA factsheet for more information on rabbit accommodation.

Next question… where do they stay overnight? That’s another thing I urge you to ask the show organizers. At this particular event a message was shared publicly to the exhibitors explaining that the animals would have to spend the whole of the first evening in their travel boxes as the venue was not safe due to weather problems. Yes the weather is not under anyone’s control, but is it fair to keep an animal in a traveling box overnight? What size are these boxes and where were they placed? When staying at a secure venue with no weather problems, where do the rabbits spend the night – in these show cages? or somewhere else.

Many of the rabbits that do have food in with them, are being fed on a muesli diet – again this has been scientifically proven to contribute to dental and digestive problems. If these people care SO much about their live stock – why are they not adhering to basic welfare guidelines and following the most up to date veterinary advice?

The RWAF state that rabbits should live in bonded, neutered pairs, be fed on a good quality diet (not muesli style mixes) and be housed in spacious accommodation that allows at least 3 full hops in any direction. Clearly – show accommodation is NOT adhering to any of these guidelines. What message is this sending the general public who flock to this event? Charities and veterinary professionals work tirelessly to promote good husbandry, handling and welfare – then for a bit of fun and entertainment (for the humans not the animals), these animal shows can do untold damage to the welfare messages in just a few hours.

WHAT ABOUT DISEASE RISKS?

Some diseases are very easily spread between rabbits and other small animals. I’m focusing on one – Viral Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RVHD). This is a rapid and often fatal disease that is easily spread from rabbit to rabbit and from human to rabbit too. It has also recently mutated into a second strain that is currently not routinely vaccinated against in the UK. The disease can live in the environment for many weeks and is easily spread on shoes, car tyres, clothes, hands etc. The following statement is displayed on the BRC’s own website with regards to RVHD:

“Clothes should be changed between handling rabbits from different places. Newly arrived rabbits should be quarantined for at least a week before mixing with others, and different clothing worn between established and new groups of rabbits.”

So – take a look at the image of the rabbit show cages again… These rabbits are side by side, above and below many other rabbits from other breeders. The judges wear their ‘coats’ for the whole show and do not change them in-between each rabbit. The judging tables have tablecloths on that are not changed between each rabbit. Do the judges wear gloves? Oh and the public have full access in and out the building, can get right up to the show cages and touch them too. Final question: Why are there no apparent disease risk controls in place?

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

I advise anyone who agrees that these types of shows DO NOT promote animal welfare, to contact the companies involved. Burgess are the main sponsor and the BRC are heavily involved.

Thankfully I have seen that Burgess have responded to a tweet today and are “reviewing their involvement with the show” (EDIT: and have WITHDRAWN their support for the show. PLEASE contact Burgess to thank them for putting welfare first).

burgess trance replyPlease do consider contacting Burgess, the show and the BRC directly (via email, Facebook, Twitter, letter etc) to see if you can get answers to some of the questions raised and show your displeasure with the event.

Finally a thank you AGAIN to Burgess for putting welfare first.

 

 

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Fashion Before Welfare AGAIN! – London Fashion week 2015

We all know that fashion and animal welfare do not often go together well. However, a designer at this years London Fashion Week has taken things a step too far.

Markus Lupfer is a German born designer who is most famous for his knitwear. Sadly, his collections include angora products…but this is not the main point of this post (it just adds to his lack of regard for rabbit welfare).

With a worldwide following that includes celebrities, this fashionista decided to “bring a woodland experience to an urban environment so people could re-connect with nature”…well that sounds alright doesnt it?

But does this LOOK alright?

Markus Lupfer Rabbit Abuse

Markus Lupfer Rabbit Abuse

Cue the glass balls hanging from the ceiling, partially filled with straw and 2 young rabbits dumped inside. Cameras flashing, people laughing, inadequate ventilation, nowhere to hide and no obvious clean source of water, room to move or decent food source. Sounds more like a horror scene for those poor rabbits than a wonderful interaction. Oh and don’t forget the fact that they got plucked out to be held by models for 15 minutes at a time for the photo opportunities.

These poor rabbits look extremely young although Markus Lupher will not declare their exact age. Oh and they were from a breeder, not a rescue, just to add extra insult.

Social media came alive with tweets (@markuslufer) and status’s exclaiming how wonderful this ‘show’ was, how cute the rabbits were, how clever the designer was and how its inspired people to go buy a rabbit *sigh*. Not a second thought was given to the welfare of those poor creatures, hung in a glass bowl for the humans entertainment. Not far off a circus act really.
Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice. This is upheld by the RSPCA and they can prosecute people who are found to breech these conditions. In my opinion, this ‘show’ clearly breaks at least 4 of the 5 freedoms mentioned in the act. For reference, here are the 5 freedoms:

1) Freedom from hunger and thirst.
By providing enough fresh water and the right type and amount of food to keep them fit.

2) Freedom from discomfort.
Making sure that animals have the right type of environment including shelter and somewhere comfortable to rest.

3) 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.

4) Freedom to behave normally.
     By making sure animals have enough space, proper facilities and the company of other animals of their own kind.

5) Freedom from fear and distress.
By making sure their conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering.

Luckily the good people of the world quickly saw the true horror of this publicity stunt and started to retaliate. The social media comments started to turn, welfare questions were asked, responses were sought and the ‘show’ was questioned. The Markus Lupfer facebook page quickly grew with over 60 complaints in a matter of hours. Twitter was also awash with negative comments regarding the debacle. I even had a fashion journalist ask me for more information on the Animal Welfare Act as she was unaware of the problems but wanted to know more.

The turning of the tide has prompted Markus Lupfer to release a ‘legal statement’ with regards to the use of the rabbits. In my opinion, this is a cop out that just forces the ‘blame’ onto the so called animal welfare company that was supposedly present the whole time. I have previously had my doubts about the qualifications of these so called ‘welfare companies’ who attend filming and public appearances to safe guard the animals. This clearly does not happen with rabbits when you consider the last few things like the Mcvities Ad, the PDSA ad and now this fashion extravaganza. If these ‘experts’ truly understood rabbit behavior then these things would not have been allowed to happen.

Markus Lupfer Legal Statement

Markus Lupfer Legal Statement

This is the second time in just a matter of months that a so called ‘artist’ has used live rabbits in an unacceptable way to gain publicity. Anne Imhof presented an art exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Giant rabbits were placed in tiny perspex cubes whilst dancers roamed around the cage banging metal rods. Just awful. You can read more about it here.

Anne Imhof Rabbit Abuse. Photo from tumblr

Anne Imhof Rabbit Abuse. Photo from tumblr

So….let nip this in the bud and get the message out there that animal abuse for the sake of art, fashion or human entertainment is NOT right and will NOT be accepted. Easter is fast approaching and I fear more stunts like this will appear which will also add to the suffering of yet more rabbits being bought on a whim as an Easter gift, many resulting in a silent suffering, tortuous existence.

Please share this information, help to raise the awareness and also consider sending polite complaints to London Fashion Week, Markus Lupfer, Anne Imhof and any other ‘artists’ who deem their work to be more important than animal welfare. Dont forget to also lodge a formal complaint with the RSPCA if you deem any of the 5 freedoms to have been broken (this only applies in the UK. You can contact the SSPCA in Scotland).

Lets shout loud about rabbit welfare and help make a difference.

 

 

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Runaround: The Enclosure Rabbits Would Choose

The video above shows a group of 11 rescue rabbits having a ball in the Runaround exhibit at the National Pet Show, Birmingham 2014. The bunnies were provided by Fat Fluffs rabbit rescue.

Runaround is a small family company that hand make all their products in the UK. They provide a series of connecting tunnels, tubes, runs, boxes and hide outs that make the perfect rabbit enclosure.

With welfare firmly placed at the heart of their business, the Runaround system is the enclosure rabbits would choose to live in if they could!

It acts like a natural warren but above ground. As rabbits are prey species they like to know where their edges are to feel secure. This system allows them to have plenty of space but without feeling insecure or overwhelmed by wide open spaces.

It doesn’t matter if your garden is big or small – Runaround will fit any space and can even be used indoors too! You can tailor make it to your requirements and its easy to move and change around as often as you like.

The product is very safe and secure, made with only the best materials. it can be permanently secured in place if preferred and can be attached to existing hutches, sheds, play houses or even your home via a catflap!

The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund are big supporters of this product due to the way it allows the rabbits to express all their natural feelings and emotions in a safe environment. It also fits well with their A Hutch Is Not Enough campaign which tries to get people to ‘think outside of the hutch’ for their pets accommodation.

Lastly – its not just bunnies that can benefit from this type of enclosure. Many species such as guinea pigs, cats, chinchillas, ferrets and more could enjoy this fabulous product.

Visit the Runaround website, facebook or you tube pages for more information.

 

 

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EXPOSE: More Horror Hutches

After the Poundstretchers Prison campaign, that successfully saw the removal of the 2ft rabbit ‘deluxe’ hutch…I decided to check out some other retailers that feel 3ft hutches are suitable for rabbits.

A quick internet search showed that unfortunately, there are still far too many retailers that are happy to sell items that actively promote animal suffering. Here are just a few:

 

1) This example from EasiPet is especially bad as its just a single story:
(and their Facebook page)

2) This particular company, Pet Market Online,  seem extremely proud of their horror hutch! They even state ” Each and every one of our high quality bunny hutches is purposely built with a large amount of space to allow your rabbit to feel safe and have privacy when they need it the most.”Really??? (and their Facebook page)

3) Double hutch as sold by The Sports HQ, but still well under the recommend size: (and their Facebook page)

4) This next offering, for sale by World Stores, is extraordinarily special – as it is neither a run or a hutch but some scary hybrid. Clearly ‘ALF’ doesn’t stand for Animal Liberation Front here! (and their Facebook page)

In fact – World Stores seem to offer a whole host of horrible hutches!

So, if like me…you are still hot under the collar about horror hutches, please consider contacting the retailers and manufacturers that are touting these prisons. As always, be polite but firm. We have seen how powerful social media is so lets continue to use it to help change lives.

All is not lost!!! Check out The Rabbit Welfare Associations ‘Retail Charter’ which highlights some fabulous manufacturers and retailers who have pledged to only sell items that promote animal welfare 🙂 All part of the ‘A Hutch Is Not Enough’ campaign.

As a good friend of mine said… “Together we can make a difference”.

 

 

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BREAKING NEWS: Poundstretcher Prison Withdrawn!

Great news!

Poundstretcher have just publicly announced that they will be removing all of the horrid rabbit prison hutches from sale with immediate effect.

“Dear Customers,

The Pet Hut, a subsidiary of Poundstretcher, has taken the decision to remove The Rabbit Hutch from all of its stores across the UK with immediate effect. As a supplier of pet products and accessories, we take the welfare of all animals extremely seriously and will not be purchasing this product again in the future.

For all PR enquiries please contact:
Rebecca Williams
Rewired PR
0121 236 2132 or [email protected]

This is a fabulous example of people working together to make a change. Social media is a powerful tool – one that companies often underestimate.

However, for me….the battle may be won but the war still continues. Poundstretcher have still not responded to ANY of my communications and I still have outstanding questions (see previous post).

I also want to find out if The Pet Hut and Poundstretchers will consider working with the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund to ensure this type of product is never sold in their stores again.

A BIG thank you to everyone that has helped share this message so far – please continue! You can contact Poundstretchers to thank them for removing the Prison Hutch from sale and also politely urge them sign up to the RWAF Retail Charter to ensure they only provide quality items in the future.

And of course….keep checking the stores to ensure they are sticking to their word 🙂

 

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EXPOSE: Pound Stretcher’s Rabbit Prison.

Pound Stretchers Rabbit Prison

Pound Stretchers Rabbit Prison

For just £129.99 you too could be the proud owner of a ‘Deluxe’ rabbit prison :/ Oh wait….why would you want to be…

This awful enclosure was spotted in a Pound Stretcher branch a few days ago. They have a specific part of the store called The Pet Hut which stocks all sorts of bits and bobs for your companion animals. Every penny counts…but apparently rabbit welfare does not.

Smaller than a laboratory rabbits enclosure – this horrible prison is being marketed as a top end treat for your cherished pet. Personally – I don’t even think this is a suitable size to house rats in let alone rabbits. It does not allow a rabbit to participate in its 5 Freedoms (breaking points 2, 4 and 5).

Not only is it TINY! (approx 2ft square) the ramps are so steep and it looks like it has a wire bottom floor. Not good. Most average rabbits couldn’t sit in this comfortably let alone live in it with their friend (as rabbits should live in bonded, neutered pairs).

Many complaints have been made to Pound Stretchers facebook page but unfortunately, rather than replying, they are deleting the majority of the comments. Others are e-mailing the head office and a lucky few have received this reply:

“The Rabbit Hutch has been sourced for our stores from a UK supplier. The legal size requirement for this product has been met by the manufacturer as well as the organizations who set the guidelines.

We have made a decision to not purchase this product in the future for our stores.

Thank you for your time.

Poundstretcher

Sounds like a cop out to me. Interestingly enough, they have not responded to my questions:

1) Will this item be removed from stock immediately or will it be discounted and placed on sale?

2) What resource did you use for the ‘legal size requirement’ and which organisations did you contact?

3) Do you currently stock any other hutches that are 4ft or smaller?

The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund are the UK’s leading source of rabbit advice. Funnily enough, they were not contacted by Pound Stretchers with regards to minimum housing guidelines. They run the ‘A Hutch Is Not Enough‘ campaign which strives to educate manufacturers, retailers and the general public as to what enclosures rabbits need to live a happy and healthy life.

Their current MINIMUM guidelines clearly state that the hutch / cage should be at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft with full time access to an attached run that should be at least 8ft x 4ft.

If you feel, like I do, that Pound Stretchers are promoting animal cruelty by selling this horrendous rabbit prison then please consider doing one or all of the following:

1) Leave a complaint on their Facebook page
www.facebook.com/Poundstretcher

2) Leave a 1 star review on their Facebook page

3) Email your complaint to Pound Stretchers
[email protected]

4) Email your complaint to The Pet Hut
http://www.thepet-hut.co.uk/contact

5) Boycott your local store

Please do let me know (by using the comments section) if you get any replies.

 

 

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