Early on New Year’s Day, when thousands of people were celebrating late into the night, the owner of the pet threw 10 rabbits out into the street, including baby bunnies.
They were left to endure frost overnight in a cardboard box and cage in Dartford, Kent, covered in urine and feces.
Luckily, they survived despite being left without food and water after being spotted by members of the public and rescued by the RSPCA.
Such stories are all too familiar. Last year, there were 5,451 cases of rabbit neglect — 1,000 more than in 2020 — and 28% more were cured.
The RSPCA believes the abuse is often due to ignorance and “debunking the myth” that rabbits are “simple and cheap pets for beginners”, however sometimes it is simply indiscriminate abuse.
The charity told The Sun about rabbits thrown into a pond, thrown by the ears and left in places where they could be easy prey for hungry predators.
Last year also saw 4,741 reports of an animal in distress, which, combined with just 2,080 repatriations – the lowest in years – led to a “crisis,” according to the RSPCA.
Dr. Jane Tyson, an expert at the rabbit welfare charity, told The Sun: “It’s very frustrating to think that there are people who intentionally harm animals.
“We have seen cases of rabbits being thrown, drowned and abandoned, it is unimaginable cruelty. »
Between 2016 and 2020, there were 811 cases of intentional cruelty to rabbits, but it’s not always “intentional” according to Dr. Jane.
And during the first lockdown, it seems that many were eager to get their hands on a four-legged friend — searches for “bunnies for sale” on Google almost doubled to 40,000 in April 2020.
Visits to the rabbit repatriation section of the RSPCA website increased by 68% between March and August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.
Beaten, thrown into ponds and left with wounds
Heartbreaking reports expose how terrible owners are to get rid of pets, cruel people attacking and deliberately abandoning their rabbits.
In the case of the 10 rabbits abandoned on New Year’s Eve in Kent, RSPCA Inspector Kirsten Ormerod said they were lucky they were found on time.
She said: “The rabbits were dirty and covered in urine stains, so it was clear they were living in poor conditions.”
“There were very young children there with them, so it looks like the breeding situation is out of control. »
In early December, two male rabbits were abandoned in a “bloody box of Amazons” in a park in Newham, London, after being “ruthlessly abandoned and left out in the cold”.
RSPCA inspector Chris McGreel found them in a “vulnerable and traumatized” state with regrown nails, and one had injuries to the penis and testicles.
He said: “We know that people’s circumstances can change, which could result in them no longer being able to take care of their pets, but there is no excuse for throwing away such an animal. »
Last July, the body of a dead rabbit was found in Westmoreland Park, Bracknell, Berkshire, wrapped in a towel and locked in a cage, then thrown into a pond.
RSPCA inspector Malvina Gasiorek said: “The veterinarians have noted that the rabbit has a heavily overgrown incisor, there may be bruising under the left eye and a small skin lesion on one hind leg. »
A rabbit in High Wycombe, London, was abandoned in a garden with a broken leg, and eight rabbits in Newcastle were abandoned on a farm – all at risk of being eaten by predators.
A witness called the RSPCA helpline, which receives at least 84,000 calls every month, to report an owner who hit and bit a rabbit, then grabbed it by the ears and threw it to the ground.
Small cells, dental trauma and carnivorous insects
Without proper understanding of pet owners, who can live up to 12 years old, they can easily become victims of neglect or even life-threatening conditions.
Dr. Jane said: “When rabbits are bought on a whim, the owner may not realize how difficult it is to take care of them and how responsible it can be to take care of rabbits.
“The myth that they are light and good pets for children has been perpetuated for years, but the reality is very different, they are very complex animals.
“They need a lot of space to live – more than in traditional cages – and to exercise to ensure their mental well-being.
“Many are kept in inappropriate conditions, such as stacked cages, dirty containers, with little or no food or water, and often overcrowded.
“They also have a very specialized diet and constantly need to eat to grind down their ever-growing teeth and make sure they are the right size and shape.
One rabbit can easily grow to 30 or 40 rabbits in a short time, and they can have many more.
Dr. Jane Tyson
“If not, they take on a curved shape, like you have teeth growing under your chin or on your nose. This is extremely painful for rabbits and prevents them from eating.
“Any violation of feeding, even for a short time, is very serious and can be fatal, as they suffer from gastrointestinal stasis.
“Then in the warm season, the owners should check for flies twice a day, that is, where the flies lay their eggs on the buttocks, and when the larvae hatch, they eat rabbit meat.
“It is truly terrifying and causes great suffering, which can also be fatal. Not only dirty rabbits can be affected, but also clean rabbits.
This is not the only issue, as the old adage “breed like rabbits” is true beyond the wildest imagination of many owners.
Some breeds of rabbits can become pregnant from three months and give birth after 30 days, then two hours after birth, you can fertilize.
Dr. Jane said: “They usually give birth at night, so many owners who don’t know their rabbit is pregnant may find many babies and their rabbit is already pregnant again.”
“One rabbit can easily grow to 30 or 40 rabbits in a short amount of time, and they can easily have many more. »
“Impulsive and innovative purchases are at risk of being abused”
PETA has also received disturbing reports that “many people buy rabbits on a whim” because they look “cute and cuddly” without realizing the kind of care they need.
Eliza Allen, director of the animal welfare charity, told The Sun: “After the novelty wears off, many are left behind, sent to street cages, thrown into animal shelters, or simply released into the wild where they have little chance of survival.
“Unfortunately, PETA often receives reports of rabbits being abandoned, abused or killed.
“Besides, alone in open-air enclosures, rabbits lead a life of quiet desperation.
“They are exposed not only to extreme weather conditions, but also to parasites such as fleas and ticks, as well as hard-working predators that will work hard to get into cages to attack terrified animals. »
This was highlighted last month in Arbroath, Scotland, when three of Laura Fraser’s rabbits were killed by a mink that escaped and entered her outdoor cage.
PETA says only people with “the time, money and know-how” should have rabbits, and preferably in pairs, because they become “withdrawn and depressed if left alone for long periods.”
Dr. Jane agrees that families need to do more research before buying pets, only to find out later that they are “not in a position to take care of them” and must turn them over to charities like the RSPCA.
She said: “During the pandemic, we have seen a large number of people wanting pets for a variety of reasons.
“For some it was them who worked from home or their kids were homeschooled, others couldn’t go on vacation so they had more money to spend.
“Now that the pandemic is easing and we are returning to normal, we will see more rabbits in the care of our teams, some of which have been abandoned and need our help.
“Also, we hear that fewer rabbits are being housed because there aren’t enough ‘good homes’ for them, which is really sad. »
Dr. Jane insists that rabbits make “wonderful pets” but only if they are “provided with the right care and conditions” as they are “not easy to take care of”.
She added: “They are very active and intelligent animals and it is a pleasure to spend time watching them play and explore nature. »
If you are concerned about an animal, call the RSPCA hotline, which is open daily from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm, on 0300 1234 999 or visit www.rspca.org.uk.