Keep Your Outdoor Rabbits Safe and Warm
Its been a hot year and so far Autumn has been mild – but that is likely to change. It’s important that you get your rabbits outdoor enclosures ready for winter before the weather turns really nasty. They need to be well sheltered from draughts, rain, flooding and of course kept snugly warm. It is still vital however, that they have permanent access to their exercise area so they can choose when they want to stretch their legs and explore. Remember that the MINIMUM enclosure guidelines for a bonded pair of rabbits is 10ft x 6ft x 3ft tall.
This is where a shed style ‘hutch’ with an attached aviary style walk in run attached can often be the best set up for bunnies. See the I Heart Rabbits – Housing Facebook group for more enclosure examples.
- Make sure the hutch / shed is as insulated as possible. You can use pre made hutch huggers or use off cuts of carpets with a layer of duvet over the top (in a waterproof duvet cover) and finished off with tarpaulin over the top. This can be used on the top and sides of hutches but NOT over the front as its important they still have ventilation, light and can see out. You can use a clear shower curtain over the front part of the hutch or shed windows to stop the rain but still allow light and visibility.
- Use a max/min recording thermometer in both the sleeping area and the exercise area of the rabbits enclosures. Then you will know exactly how cold it gets and can see if your heating methods are helping. Be sure to keep thermometers and wires away from nibbling teeth!
- Line the sleeping area with cardboard (as long as your rabbits are not chewers!), newspaper, SOFT straw and then a layer of bedding hay. This creates a nice cosy bed. You can also use fleece blankets and towels if your rabbit is well litter trained (and again, not a chewer!) but often the straw / hay bed is warmer. A bonded pair of bunnies will be much warmer as they can snuggle with each other. You can use a Snugglesafe microwave heat pad to add in last thing at night too. Make sure to use a lovely fleece cover on these – check out the Snugglebunnies page on Facebook as all the profits from their items go to the Rabbit Welfare Association.
- Check the water! Often water bottles can freezer and the rabbit is unable to drink. You can use pre made bottle covers or you can make your own with bubble wrap and an old woolly sock. Bowls are often better than bottles but these can freeze too. You can place these on top of a Snugglesafe head pad overnight to reduce the risk of freezing.
- Access to their exercise area is vital – so this needs to be weather proofed too. Make sure the area cannot flood and that they have areas off of the floor to perch on. Use clear shower curtains or plastic sheeting to cover 3 sides of the run. You can also use thick, clear corrugated plastic over the roof . Never enclose the whole run as this will cut own the ventilation too much.
- Lastly – YOU need to go and feed, check and play with your bunnies just as much as you do in the summer. Often, many rabbits get left to fend for themselves in winter as their owners do not want to go out in the cold and wet to see them. If you have a large shed enclosure with a walk in aviary, this makes it much easier for you to spend time with them in the nasty weather.
Be on the lookout for any change in eating habits or behavior that can show that a rabbit is unwell. Seek immediate advice from your vets if you are concerned. Very young or elderly rabbits and those with health problems will often need more care in the winter months. Make sure you are already registered with a good rabbit savvy vet.
UPDATE: 5pm 28.3.18
I am VERY pleased to see that Heathrow Airport have decided to cancel their event! Hooray – thanks to everyone that contacted them and well done Heathrow for seeing sense!
Yet again its that magical time of year when the Easter Bunny comes to visit and shares all his lovely chocolate eggs. Isnt it wonderful? No…not if you are a rabbit.
Easter is the time of year when the majority of companies believe animal exploitation is perfectly acceptable. Throughout the world, live rabbits (and chicks) will be taken to busy shopping centres, schools and even airports and forced to interact with excitable children. Not a care is given to the welfare of the live animals because a ‘wonderful experience for the children’ is often deemed far more important than the animals care.
It is vital to understand a rabbits behaviour in order to see why this thinking is wrong.
1) Rabbits are prey species. As such, they do not like loud noises, busy areas and lots of people. They do not like being hovered over (this is like a bird of prey waiting to cach them) and they do not like being picked up, held or pinned to the floor for a ‘lovely cuddle’.
2) Rabbits have specific dietary and housing needs. Their diet should be strictly controlled any many of these live animal encounters feed muesli type mix to their animals regardless of what species they are. Often, large amounts of carrots are also used at these events so that the children can feed the rabbits – a very bad thing as carrots are high in sugars and not suitable for feeding in large quantities or every day.
3) Rabbits should only live with rabbits. Many of these pop up events will have rabbits housed with other species such as guinea pigs, chicks, ducks, goats and mini horses. This is NOT acceptable and creates a hugh risk of injury and stress to all the animals involved.
For more information on caring for rabbits, please see the Rabbit Welfare Association and Funds guide.
Lets look at Heathrow Airport first…
In their wisdom they have created a ‘Bunny Cuddle Corner’ in every terminal for over the Easter period. They are very excited about this venture and have created a video to highlight how fabulous it is that they are providing a space for over excited children to get in with live rabbits before boarding their flight. They even have Dr Elizabeth Kilbey (a clinical child psychologist) in the video stating that animals have a soothing effect on children. Well, yes…but what about the effect that excitable children have on rabbits? Apparently, that does not seem to matter…She even states that “rabbits are the perfect pets to calm children”. This is an outrageous thing to promote and she clearly has NO clue about a rabbits needs.
My questions that are not currently being answered are:
- Where these rabbits are being kept overnight?
- How long do they spend in the ‘activity’ enclosure at a time and per day?
- What is the current vaccination status of each rabbit?
- How long is their journey to and from the airport?
Heathrow have stated that the rabbits are “trained for this environment” (I never knew you could get airport training for rabbits…) and they are provided by a company called Amazing Animals. I wonder if they are this company that was highlighted in the Daily Mail in 2016?
Heathrow have responded to the public outcry on their Facebook page with a couple of pretty standard cut and paste responses that frankly, are not acceptable. They claim that “The activity is being run to give people the chance to have a relaxing moment before travelling”. What on earth??? Since when did humans desperately need to stroke a rabbit before boarding a plane as the only way to calm themselves? I’m feeling anything but calm right now! Please sign this urgent petition to get this event shut down!
Moving on to The Sun newspaper.
They decided to print an Easter feature and use a Shutterstock image of a child dangling a rabbit pretty much by its neck! The Sun responded to a few comments (not all and not to any of mine) with a paltry excuse that they did not know the handling was innapropriate and they are sure the child did not mean to cause any deliberate harm to the rabbit. Well thats ok then…NOT! I would like to know how Morrisons, Smiggle, Superdrug, Poundland and Ocado feel about being promoted alongside animal cruelty?
We need to wise up about animal exploitation – as parents, as companies, as HUMANS! and treat animals with the respect they deserve. These promotions are meerly a circus by another name and should not be socially acceptable. If you are a parent, be responisble for the messages you are giving your kids and avoid anywhere that exploits animals.
These are just 2 example of the horrors that have been unveiled so far for Easter 2018. If like me, you feel that these events are cruel and should be stopped, please politely contact the companies involved by email, letter, Facebook or Twitter and share your responses. You can encourage others to share their thoughts on these, and other Easter events with live animals.
And PLEASE make sure you sign and share this urgent petition!
17th – 25th June 2017
RAW is run by a collaboration of organisations: The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, The Blue Cross, PDSA, RSPCA, Wood Green, Burgess Pet Care and Agria Pet Insurance. This team pick a new theme each year and aim to provide information to both veterinary professionals and the general public about key aspects of rabbit care.
But I feel that raising rabbit awareness should continue all year long and throughout many countries, so I urge you all to embrace RAW and continue it longer than just the suggested week.
- Veterinary practices can continue to improve their offerings for rabbits and can apply to be on the RWAF rabbit friendly vet list.
- Owners, rescues and companies can help share welfare posters from reputable organisations via social media and hold awareness events.
- and everyone can take a few minutes to report any potential welfare problems to pet stores, zoo’s, farms and shops that they may come across (by informing the companies manager, head office, via their social media or if more serious, by reporting to the RSPCA, Trading Standards and the Local Council).
So lets come together to make this the best RAW yet AND continue to share good, factual rabbit advice all year long.
I have previously written about the fact that good, rabbit savvy vets can be very hard to find (see here) So now I’m going to focus on a new company that has been formed to bridge the knowledge gap.
LagoLearn Ltd is unique because it is currently the only company that focuses on rabbit only training. They provide a range of teaching events that are suitable for all student and qualified veterinary professionals including animal support staff (ANA’s and VCA’s) who often get overlooked and are not allowed to attend some training because they are not a vet or a nurse. LagoLearn know how important it is for all practice staff to be aware of rabbits welfare and care needs so are happy to welcome them to their training days.
All of the teaching is carried out by experts in their field. Dr Ivan Crotaz BVetMed is one of the company directors and teachers. He has a special interest in anaesthesia, airway management and surgery and is an accomplished teacher having provided lectures throughout the UK, Europe and the USA. A selection of well known rabbit specialist vets and nurses will also be lecturing at some of the events along with other expert individuals.
The day course format consists of main lectures and small group teaching where delegates are split into vet and nurse groups to work through case studies, problem solving and practical skills that are most relevant to their job. Topics covered will include anaesthesia, surgery, dentistry, husbandry, nurse clinics and making your practice more rabbit friendly and much more!
These events will be running throughout the UK and also Internationally too. The next event is on the 13th Oct 2016 at the beautiful Easthampstead Park. It is one of the ‘Rabbit Roundup’ events that provide a useful overview of the most common issued faced by general practice vets and how to treat them. This day also has a special lecture that highlights the current RVHD2 crisis. See here for more information about this course.
LagoLearn are sponsored by Supreme Petfoods and are proud to be working with them as they both share a passion for improving rabbit welfare. They are the only company to currently provide a range of ethically sourced extruded and monoforage rabbit feeds that have the highest percentage of crude fibre available (Science Selective Adult contains 25%, Fibafirst contains <30% and the VetCare Plus products range from 28% to 34%) and no added sugar.
So make sure to mention LagoLearn to your vets and get them to sign up to their mailing list by emailing [email protected] as well as following them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and even YouTube! Feel free to also send them photos of your happy healthy bunnies and use the hashtags #lagolearn and #rabbitcpd
Their NEW Christmas ad is out and storming the world as the cutest thing of all time.
This ‘cute’ commercial shows puppies, kittens, bunnies, ducklings and more all looking festive. So what’s wrong with that I hear some say…
Firstly – advertising sweet, baby critters at Christmas time is a sure fire way to get kids in the mood for a new bundle of joy. Xmas lists all over the world will now have livestock added to them (and some Santa’s will have to search very hard indeed for a baby narwhal).
ANIMALS ARE NOT TOYS!
None of the good charities, rescues or veterinary organisations recommend giving pets as presents. In most cases – its a one way ticket to the rescue shelter in the New Year.
Secondly – the handling of these poor creatures is awful. Forced to lay on their backs, held by children, wearing clothes and sat in tea cups – do I need to say it again…ANIMALS ARE NOT TOYS! This will ultimately result in some kids (and adults) trying to mis handle their pets to re create a cute photo moment. Stressful for the pet, not fun and not cute.
This nicely leads me on the the third biggest problem. The rabbit. Cute? Yes. Fluffy? Yes. Lots of ‘pester power’ from the children to buy one? Yes. should you buy one? NO!
Rabbits do not make good pets for kids. Period. This particular commercial shows the baby bunny forced to lay on its back on the child’s lap. This is actually called ‘Trancing’ or ‘Tonic Immobility’. It is a hugely stressful state for the rabbit. As a prey species, they pretend to be dead when they think they are being attacked by a predator. They lay there, frozen in fear, heart racing and fearing their death. Still think its cute? Studies have proven that their stress hormone levels also increase at this time (blood cortisol levels). The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund have been tirelessly fighting to get the right info out into the public space to STOP people from handling rabbits this way. This TV ad has successfully put back all their good work by years! Every filming should have a welfare officer on duty to ensure all animals are treated correctly – I wonder if they had one and if so…I wonder what qualifications they hold as clearly many animals were mishandled here.
And lastly – who wants loads of animal hair on their biscuits anyway?
If like me – you feel the McVities Christmas ad promotes cruel mishandling of animals and encourages the sale of innocent creatures, please consider contacting them to politely let them know. I will be boycotting McVities this year and encourage others to do so. #boycottmcvities
McVities have released the following statement:
“We can confirm that no animals were harmed in the making of the McVitie’s Victoria Christmas ad. We had a professional vet and handlers
on set overseeing all the filming to ensure the welfare of the animals
was our top priority. The professionals on set have confirmed that in
their opinion the rabbit filmed was absolutely not in a state of tonic
immobility or “trancing”; the camera angles used in the filming are
clearly misleading. However, we understand that the ad could mislead
people into thinking that putting a rabbit on its back is recommended,
when this is not the case. We have therefore taken the decision to
remove this scene in the ad as soon as we can. We’d like to thank anyone
who raised this issue with us and would like to remind the public that
they should follow professional advice as to how to best handle animals
in specific circumstances including from The Rabbit Welfare Association
and Fund – www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk.”
It is estimated there are around 50 million rabbits farmed in China for angora fur and the country accounted for 90 per cent of the 4,700 tons produced in 2012.
Angora ‘wool’ cannot be harvested humanely in the vast quantities needed for designer or high street fashion. Both plucking and shaving of live rabbits is stressful, scary and painful and ultimately unnecessary. Add to this, the awful living conditions these poor creatures have to endure and it culminates in a hideous existence just for the sake of fashion.
I contacted a wide range of high street and designer fashion stores last year asking them a few questions about how and where they source their angora. I also asked them to stop using it and to pledge to NEVER sell it again. Im pleased to say I had a good uptake and the following retailers pledged to never / no longer stock angora:
- Borgeois Boheme
- Calvin Klein
- Elizabetta Italian Scarves, Shawls & Wraps
- Feelgood Handbags
- New Look
- Polarn O. Pyret
- Stella McCartney
- The Range
- Ted Baker
- Tommy Hilfiger
- The North Face
Im pleased to say that ALL of the above companies have stayed true to their word! And many other large retainers have done the same. Please support these retailers and contact them with messages of praise 🙂
However – not everyone is willing to play nice and too many retailers are preferring to put fashion before welfare.
Many companies have tried to be clever and disable the word ‘angora’ in their search bar on their website. Meaning that it would appear that they do not stock angora clothes but if you dig deeper and look at individual items, then angora products are actually still being sold. Others have decided to change the materials listed to ‘wool mix’ in order to disguise the use of angora.
Who Sells Angora?
These are some of the retailers who are currently happy to sell angora products:
Marks & Spencers and Topshop may still be selling angora – PETA says they have pledged to stop but the companies social media responses say they have an ‘ethical sourcing policy’ – so they wont confirm that that do or don’t sell angora.
The worst companies so far…
French Connection clearly dont give a FCUK about rabbits – quite hypocritical really considering they decided to use a cute bunny in their recent store posters! They will not enter into any dialogue with me or many of the others that have contacted them.
Monsoon are happy to respond to questions via social media…however they just cut and paste the same answer over and over. They state they use ‘humane’ farms but refuse to give any further details.
Jules are another company that happily use the rabbit / hare image for promotion – yet continue to stock angora products and refuse to answer my questions about their suppliers and sourcing methods.
There are of course, other companies out there providing angora products but these 3 have been the worst with regards to replying to my questions over the past year.
If you feel that the agony of angora for fashion should be stopped then please consider doing one or all of the following:
Contact retailers via Facebook (links above), Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest. Leave a polite comment (or review if that option is available) and ask them:
1) Do they source their angora from China?
2) Is this plucked or shaved from live rabbits?
3) Will they consider stopping the use of angora?
You can contact the companies directly via a head office email to ask the same questions.
Ask to speak to a manager to ask the same questions. They may not know the answers but should be able to tell you which of their stock (if any) contains angora and give you contact details of head office.
Obviously – don’t shop in stores that sell angora products and check the labels before making any purchases.
Spread the word!
Lastly – help make a difference by spreading the word that angora clothes = torture not fashion. You can join the Facebook group ‘Against Angora Cruelty’ to keep up to date with the campaign.
Please let me know of any responses you receive.
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.
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:
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)
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)
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”.