When I stumbled across this story on http://www.guardian.co.uk a few days ago, I was dismayed to learn that the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund) supports indoor AND outdoor housing for rabbits.
Yet, it is important that people understand the importance of providing bunnies with adequate housing space. Whenever I see small rabbit cages – like the “Starter Kit” packages sold at pet stores – I cringe. I feel sorry for rabbits that are forced to live in such a small setup where they have almost no room to move around.
And now back to that news story….
August 10, 2010 – Rabbit hutches sold by Britain’s largest retail chains are so small that they are tantamount to animal cruelty and could cause owners to inadvertently break the law, an animal welfare charity warned recently.
With greater numbers of rabbits being sold as children’s pets during the school holidays, the RWAF urged retailers to improve their hutches.
Britain’s largest specialist rabbit welfare charity, the RWAF said Argos and Homebase, for example, both sold a £70 ($109 USD) hutch that is only 77cm (30 inches) long but is marketed as big enough to allow rabbits to “stretch on their hind legs and run freely.”
The charity said the hutch was barely half the size recommended for laboratory rabbits, while four separate hutches in the Argos range were smaller than the minimum for lab rabbits.
The RWAF said this was hypocritical because Argos had earned “cruelty-free” status from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.
Rae Todd, of the RWAF, said: “Pet rabbits can live in hutches provided they’re big enough for rabbits to hop around, stretch and jump up, and as long as they’re attached to a permanent exercise area.
“But keeping rabbits cooped up alone in hutches of the type sold by these big retail chains is just tantamount to cruelty.” There is no legal minimum size for a hutch, but the Animal Welfare Act makes it a legal obligation for owners to provide for the needs of their pets, including somewhere suitable to live, the ability to express normal behaviour and being housed with (or apart from) other animals.
The RWAF said rabbit owners cannot meet these legal obligations if they keep their rabbit alone in a hutch. It added that a hutch should only ever be a shelter as part of a larger living area, and never the sole accommodation.
“A traditional hutch and run isn’t the only way to keep pet rabbits humanely,” Todd said. “Many people find it easier to adapt a garden shed as rabbit accommodation, build an attractive garden feature from a converted aviary or child’s wendy house or keep them indoors, house trained.”
She said the organisation had sent Argos an 11-page review of its product range in April, but had received “only a standard reply – which was very disappointing”.
The Home Retail Group, of which Argos and Homebase are members, said it was committed to being a responsible retailer. A statement said: “The RSCPA has advised that it has no current recommendation for the size of a hutch for a single rabbit. In our autumn/winter catalogue we do make it clear that hutches should be used in conjunction with a run, we will be amending the website to that effect. We also offer a discount on a run if purchased in conjunction with selected rabbit hutches.”