Highlands & Islands

Hundreds of rabbits suffering lonely lives, says Scottish SPCA

Rabbit Image copyright SSPCA
Image caption Animal welfare officers believe hundreds of pet rabbits live lonely, isolated lives in small hutches

Hundreds of rabbits have been abandoned by owners bored with looking after them, according to the Scottish SPCA .

The animal welfare charity rescued 728 rabbits in 2014 and has already taken 550 into care this year.

The Scottish SPCA, which is holding its annual rabbit awareness week, said it was concerned hundreds more were living lonely lives in small hutches.

It said they are intelligent, social animals, requiring lots of care and interaction from their owners.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "One of the most common excuses we hear is that the children in the family, who asked for the rabbit in the first place, have become fed up now that the novelty of the new pet has worn off.

"Another reason is that the owner simply doesn't have the time to look after their rabbit.

"One of the biggest issues is rabbits being left in a hutch with no interaction other than a brief visit from their owner to bring food and water."

He added: "These poor rabbits are literally suffering in silence, living a miserable and lonely life."

The Scottish SPCA hopes to rehome many of the rabbits it has taken in.

Image caption There have been calls to give pet rabbits greater legal protection against neglect

Last year, an animal welfare scientist said the pets needed better legal protection against neglect.

James Oxley said that unlike some EU countries, the UK does not have legal requirements on the size of hutches, or that rabbits be kept in pairs.

Writing in the World Rabbit Science Association's journal, he suggested a review of how existing laws impact on rabbits.

Scottish organisation Rabbits Require Rights has also been calling for greater legal protection for the pets.

It said rabbits were the UK's third most popular pet, but were the most neglected.

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