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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Poundstretcher have just publicly announced that they will be removing all of the horrid rabbit prison hutches from sale with immediate effect.
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:
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 🙂
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.
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
2) Leave a 1 star review on their Facebook page
3) Email your complaint to Pound Stretchers
4) Email your complaint to The Pet Hut
5) Boycott your local store
Please do let me know (by using the comments section) if you get any replies.