If you’d like to shout out for a better life for bunnies, find out about an exciting new development from the team that created Rabbit Awareness Week…
Many devoted bunny lovers across the UK know about Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) – the annual event set up by Burgess Pet Care 15 years ago to promote the health and welfare of pet rabbits. In a brilliant new development, the Rabbit Awareness Action Group (RAAG) has just been established.
Led by Burgess Pet Care, members of RAAG, comprising the RSPCA, Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF), Wood Green, Blue Cross and PDSA, are committed to building on the achievements of RAW, continuing to improve the lives of the UK’s pet rabbits by raising awareness of their five key welfare needs among new and established owners.
Domestic rabbits kept as pets are fundamentally the same as their wild cousins. Their basic nature and needs are the same as those of wild rabbits, who live in large social groups and cover a distance equal to the length of six football pitches every day. It’s much easier to provide pet rabbits with the necessary exercise if their exercise run is attached to their hutch/cage, so they can come and go as they please. The exercise run should enable your rabbits to display all of their key natural behaviours: running, digging/burrowing, jumping, hiding, foraging/grazing.
Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, explains: “Whilst we have made great strides through 15 years of RAW campaigning, we recognise that rabbits’ popularity as a pet has increased, and that they remain one of the UK’s most owned but least understood animals. The first Good Practice Code for the Welfare of Rabbits in England, which was launched during RAW 2021, provides the perfect opportunity for RAAG to throw the spotlight on the particular needs of these wonderful creatures through planned, year-round activity, designed to ensure greater understanding for their health and welfare requirements, including a call for all rabbit supporters to sign up to the Code. RAAG is determined to throw our collective voice and influence behind the new Code to ensure that it is well-understood by everyone and is widely publicised and high on the agenda – now and in the future.”
Wild rabbits live in colonies, never on their own. Rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups. Recent scientific research has confirmed that rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone: they value companionship as much as food.
Since the first Rabbit Awareness Week in 2006, supporters have promoted providing better housing through the hutch is not enough campaign, encouraged owners to move away from muesli to prevent selective feeding, which can lead to an unbalanced diet and cause health problems, and to ensure that every rabbit is vaccinated against deadly diseases.
Rabbits need to be neutered, and to have regular vaccinations against RVHD and myxomatosis.
Our survey said?
Following 2021’s campaign Hopping Through the Years, which focused on rabbits’ welfare throughout their lifetime, Burgess Pet Care ran surveys among owners and vets to determine what it had achieved. The results are really promising:
- 65% of people said that they learnt something new about adapting their rabbits’ care for their age
- 24% said that they have already made some changed to care based on their rabbits’ life stage
- 43% said they learnt something new about rabbit care in general
- 56% downloaded a RAW information pack
Because rabbits are preyed upon by many other species, they are naturally shy, quiet animals who hate being held above ground level. They do not like to be picked up and carried around, so children should be encouraged to interact with them at ground level instead. Gaining the trust of a rabbit takes time and effort.
- 41% of vet practices ran their own RAW campaign
- 99% of vets and vet nurses said they think RAW has a positive impact on rabbit care in the UK
- 93% of vets and vet nurses think that rabbit welfare in the UK is improving
Dr Richard Saunders, veterinary specialist adviser to RWAF and one of the key stakeholders involved in delivering the Good Practice Code, said: “Whilst the research findings following this year’s RAW campaign are really encouraging, sadly it remains the case that far too many rabbits continue to have woefully inadequate housing, living alone with little stimulation and are fed incorrect diets, which can lead to numerous health problems. Our ultimate aim is to see the Good Practice Code enshrined in law as a framework by which all owners and key groups such as retailers and rescues can build their practices around to ensure a bright future for these very special animals.”
Rabbits should be fed in a way that is as close as possible to their natural diet: mostly grass or hay. In fact, rabbits could live on hay and water alone, but we recommend providing some fresh leafy vegetables and a small amount of commercial feed. The long fibre of grass or hay is vital to their digestive, behavioural and dental health.
Can you help RAAG to meet its objectives?
- Continue to improve the lives of the UK’s pet rabbits by raising awareness of their five key welfare needs among new and established owners. Specifically, RAAG will help to educate owners about: suitable diets, companionship, rabbits’ housing requirements, preventative treatments and the importance of companionship.
- Champion and raise awareness and understanding of the Good Practice Code for the welfare of rabbits now and in the future.
- Use their collective voice to lobby and influence policy makers and decision makers on the importance of improving the welfare of pet rabbits in the UK.
- Educate potential pet rabbit owners and help them to decide whether they are ready to own rabbits, and how to prepare to welcome them into the family.
- Support and champion existing campaigns from rabbit advocates and ambassadors, including RWAF’s ‘A hutch is not enough’ campaign.
- Ensure owners are aware of pet rabbits’ changing needs as they grow older, including have a life-stage appropriate diet and making adaptations to their housing.
- Encourage owners to ‘adopt don’t shop’.
There are 67,000 rabbits going into rescue in the UK every year. Rescue rabbits are already health checked, neutered and vaccination.
For further information and to support the work of RAAG, visit
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The entire Burgess Rabbit range is made using only the finest quality ingredients and is designed to prevent selective feeding (a common problem with muesli-based diets where rabbits eat some high starch/sugar components, while rejecting the more fibrous pellets, causing all manner of health issues). Naturally high in Beneficial Fibre and fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy eyes, skin and coat, it’s really no wonder that 92% of UK vets recommend our Burgess small pets range.
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