We’ve had a number of people contacting us about a news clip that aired on Friday night, so we’d like to address some of the concerns raised There is currently no Code of Welfare for domestic rabbits, and no legal guidelines on rabbit ownership in New Zealand.
Therefore it is the collective responsibility of our community to ensure that people have access to the correct information on housing, handling, enrichment and diet based on the latest information.In an age where this information is readily available, there is no excuse not to be informed. However we can educate people with kindness, without publically calling out any one business for practices that are sadly widespread.Please share this post if you’d like to help spread awareness for one of the most under-represented, and misunderstood domestic animals in our country.
Basic care needs for rabbits
Room to move – International standards suggest rabbits should have a minimum space of 3x2metres, with a height of 1.5metres and with access to shelter from all weather conditions.Rabbits in hutches are unable to display natural movements, and are at higher risk of:- Life-threatening conditions such as bladder infections, obesity, and GI stasis. – Painful bone and muscle growth deformities.- Flystrike – an extremely painful and fatal condition which occurs more regularly in animals who are forced to live in close proximity to their toileting areas.
DESEXING – prevents unwanted pregnancies, eliminates reproductive cancers, and reduces negative behavioural issues.
VACCINATIONS! – Rabbits require vaccinations once a year to protect against the three confirmed strains of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease/Calicivirus (RCD) in New Zealand.- RCD is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease. Even indoor rabbits must be vaccinated, as the virus spreads through insect and human activity, and through infected surfaces such as hay, bedding, clothing and wood.- The most comprehensive vaccine is “Filavac”, as this is the only vaccine that provides protection against all three strains.
Always handle with care!
Never hold a rabbit upside down on their backs, as this is an extremely distressing position for any prey animal, and they will enter a state of “tonic immobility” or “trance”. Rabbits have vulnerable spines, and should always have their feet on a flat surface. If picked up, they should have their spine supported and their feet safely against your body.
Never bath a rabbit! This can lead to pneumonia and other serious health conditions.
A balanced diet is key to good health. Unlimited access to hay – meadow and timothy varieties should make up to 80/90% of their diet.
Unlimited access to fresh water – best served in a ceramic bowl, rather than a sipper bottle. Pellets should only be seen as an addition to the diet, and should always have a fibre content above 16%
Avoid: “Meat Pellets” – rabbits are still farmed for meat production in NZ, and this industry have designed pellets specifically for fast growth with little nutritional value. The best way to avoid these is to check the ingredients list. Often “meat pellets” will contain things such as “fish or bone meal” and will be low in fibre content.
Avoid: Museli-mix pellets including seeds, or whole corn kernels. These are fattening, and can create dangerous blockages in the digestive system. The best quality pellet brands in NZ are: Harringtons, Burgess, Oxbow and Selective.
A carrot is to a rabbit, what a chocolate bar is to a child… All fruit should be considered as treat foods.
The healthiest fresh food to feed your rabbits are dark leafy greens, herbs, and safe foraged weeds. Depending on the size of your bunny, they should have around 2 cups of fresh food daily.
Enrichment – just like us, a bored rabbit will become frustrated! To keep them occupied and happy, give them plenty of games, safe toys, tunnels and hidey-holes.
Companionship – rabbits need rabbit friends! Solo rabbits are at high risk of becoming anxious and depressed. As prey animals, they are constantly on alert for predators without a friend to help keep watch… The most stable relationships are between desexed pairs of the opposite sex. Human interactions should always be respectful, and attentive of a rabbit’s unique personality. The best way to gain a rabbits trust is to spend time sitting on the floor with them.
If a rabbit stops eating they require immediate medical attention, and can die if left untreated. Always use a rabbit-savvy vet!————-
If you would like to see domestic rabbits represented in the Animal Welfare Act, please contact your local MP and ask them to use their position to be a voice for the animals