Posted: March 8, 2011, 4:15 p.m. EST
The British Veterinary Association is disappointed that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom recently decided that pet rabbits are sufficiently protected under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and do not need a separate code of practive to ensure their welfare.
The British Veterinary Association sent out a media alert in early March expressing its disappointment in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ decision not to publish a code of practice on the welfare of rabbits.
DEFRA considers that “the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to provide for the welfare needs of animals are sufficient to ensure the necessary protection for the welfare of pet rabbits,” said Minister James Paice MP.
The BVA called the decision a disappointing blow.
“Rabbits are such popular pets but vets are seeing more and more husbandry-related problems with these animals,” said Harvey Locke, president of the BVA. “Dental disease and obesity are two of the most common problems we encounter, and both are directly linked to inappropriate diets.
“Another issue of concern is inadequate space for exercise — but perhaps the most neglected of all the welfare needs is a lack of companionship for these very social animals.”
There are more than 1.6 million rabbits in the United Kingdom. About 700,000 rabbits could be suffering, mentally and physically, because they are not receiving all the essential health and welfare requirements for their happiness and well-being, Locke said, citing a recently published PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report. The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) helps care for the sick and injured animals of people in need.
“The government has missed an opportunity to educate owners about responsible rabbit ownership and improve the health and welfare of the UK’s third most popular pet,” he said.
The Welsh Assembly Government published a code of practice in late 2009 that highlights the welfare needs of rabbits and what the law requires owners to do.
“It would be heartening to see DEFRA follow suit,” Locke said.
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