Hundreds of rabbit owners are urging Pets at Home to extend its ban on the sale of bunnies this Easter.
Pets at Home have announced they will suspend the sale and adoption of rabbits at all of its stores for the four-day holiday to prevent irresponsible buying.
The move has been applauded but animal lovers have said it is not enough because they sell the rabbits without proper background checks and subsequently abandoned.
Sophie Finnegan was told her pet was given a health check but discovered two days later that the rabbit’s back teeth were so long they had punctured its eyeball and cause blindness
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has also spoken out against the ‘cruel pet trade’ which sees thousands of rabbits abandoned each year and has urged customers to adopt instead.
Peter Pritchard, CEO of Pets at Home, said: ‘Our decision to stop the sale and adoption of rabbits during Easter has been made to educate potential owners on the importance of responsible pet ownership.’
But rabbit owner Sophie Finnegan claims her pet, purchased at Pets at Home, was allegedly given a full health check but she discovered two days later that the rabbit’s back teeth were so long they had punctured its eyeball and caused blindness.
Another owner Kyrenia Shorten, 41, claims she was forced to adopt a rabbit after it was abandoned by a Pets at Home customer who soon realised he was unable to care for the animal.
Kyrenia Shorten, 41, claims she was forced to adopt a rabbit after it was abandoned by a Pets at Home customer who soon realised he was unable to care for the animal
Kyrenia, from Worthing, has rehomed abandoned animals for almost two decades and one of her rabbits was rescued after its previous owner ditched it in favour of a new puppy
Kyrenia, from Worthing, West Sussex, has rehomed abandoned animals for almost two decades and one of her rabbits was rescued after its previous owner ditched it in favour of a new puppy.
Both are calling on Pets at Home to extend the prohibition of bunny sales to at least a fortnight before and after Easter Sunday.
Kyrenia said: ‘The guy decided after about eight months that he wasn’t able to care for it after buying a puppy. He’d bought the rabbit for his kids.
‘I believe the kids were bored with the bunny once the puppy came along. He tried to say it was for the bunny’s safety.
‘More checks should be done. Bunnies are very complex animals and need a specific diet and lots of care.
‘They are probably the most neglected pet in this country. People mean well but are not given the correct information when buying.
‘Rabbits should ideally be in pairs as they get incredibly lonely on their own.
‘I think it’s a good decision for Pets at Home to suspend the sale of bunnies – a bit longer than the four days. They should start the ban from the week before.
‘People should possibly consider rehoming from a rescue centre rather than buying. That way the rabbit will be health checked and spayed or neutered.’
Stewie, rabbit belonging to Kyrenia Shorten
Alfie, rabbit adopted by Sophie Finnegan
PETA, who have publicly condemned the ‘institution of ‘pet keeping’ in the past, have backed Pets at Home’s temporary ban on rabbit sales and urged people to consider adopting animals in the future instead.
How much work is it caring for a rabbit? And what do you need to bare in mind before buying one?
Rabbits are one of the most popular pets in the UK with an estimated 1.5 million kept according to the most recent pet census.
But looking after them is more work than widely believed, and they need more than just a secure, large hutch.
Pet rabbits tend to live around 8-12 years, and are highly social, intelligent animals.
According to the RSPCA, the daily activities include of looking after a rabbit include:
- Feeding & providing water
- Cleaning toilet area
- Basic health check
- Grooming (daily for long-haired rabbits)
- Putting the rabbit(s) out for exercise
- Interacting positively with the rabbit (providing company, play time)
Weekly activities include:
- Cleaning whole enclosure thoroughly
- Grooming (weekly for short-haired rabbits)
- Thorough health check
- Interacting with rabbit(s) – especially if rabbit is singly-housed
In total, the RSPCA estimates it takes about 10 hours a week to look after a healthy rabbit.
Keeping bunnies around isn’t cheap either.
The lifetime cost for an outdoor rabbit, assuming it lives 10 years is £11,080 and £10,980 for an indoor rabbit – and that’s before vet’s fees.
A spokesperson from PETA said: ‘PETA applauds Pets at Home’s decision to stop selling rabbits over the Easter period – given that every year at this time, there’s a huge spike in the number of bunnies bought and then summarily discarded – and hopes the company will make the compassionate choice not to bring them back to the sales floor at all.
‘Many people who buy rabbits on a whim – a practice supported by pet shops – haven’t a clue how much work and commitment must go into caring for them, including providing them with a species-appropriate diet, a stimulating environment with space to run and jump, and regular veterinary check-ups.
‘PETA encourages anyone with the necessary time, love and money to care for a rabbit not to bolster the cruel pet trade and instead to visit a shelter or rabbit rescue group and save a life by adopting a bunny (or preferably two) in need of a good home.’
Pets at Home claims the ban is to educate future customers on responsible pet ownership and has vowed will host educational sessions over the Easter weekend.
A spokesperson for Pets at Home said: ‘Pets at Home are taking these steps in order to educate and inform future pet owners on the importance of responsible pet ownership.
‘Each year, customer interest in rabbits increases at Easter due to their association with this time of year.
‘Customers will not be able to buy or adopt a rabbit from Good Friday to Easter Monday but are invited to take part in these free workshops over the Easter holidays and weekend.
Pets at Home has a vigorous system for checking potential pet owners, as it is important for the pet to match the potential owners’ circumstances, regardless of the type of animal they are looking for.’
Pets at Home claim to have a list of considerations they provide to prospective customers which state rabbits are fantastic pets for ‘experienced pet owners’, start-up costs of hutches and accessories as well as ongoing costs such as vets bills, food and bedding.
They also claim warn customers about the life-span of rabbits and how they prefer to live with other rabbits.
Rabbits Stewie and Honey who belong to Kyrenia Shorten
Rabbits Stewie and Olaf who belong to Kyrenia Shorten