Mike Flynn: Rabbit need our care and attention

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As Scotland’s animal welfare charity stages Rabbit Awareness Week, Mike Flynn warns the number of abandoned bunnies is on the rise

In 2012, we rescued a staggering 766 rabbits across Scotland – almost a 40 per cent increase on the 548 rabbits we cared for in 2008.

This year is proving to be very challenging as well, with 390 rabbits already rescued, and this worrying trend demonstrates why we need to raise awareness of the hardships many pet rabbits face.

There are lots of loving rabbit owners who treat their pets like one of the family and give them all the care and attention they need, but sadly this isn’t true in all cases.

Some rabbits arrive in our care in a terrible state having been denied basic nutrition and veterinary attention, while others are sadly forgotten pets children have grown tired of.

Thankfully, the severe cruelty cases are in the minority. The biggest issue is rabbits being put in a hutch and left at the bottom of the garden, with many enduring a life of solitude and boredom. Often the only interaction they have is a brief visit from their owner to bring food and water. Many owners even find this to be a chore and it is these rabbits which tend to be dumped outdoors, or handed in to one of our rescue centres unwanted.

While we never encourage taking on a pet on impulse, we currently have more than 100 rabbits in our care looking for good, permanent homes. Anyone thinking of rehoming a rabbit should ensure they have the time, commitment and financial ability to provide a happy and healthy life.

Rabbits are highly intelligent, sociable and can make fantastic family pets, though we strongly advise parents that they and not their children need to take responsibility for their welfare. Pets are not toys and should never be given on a whim, or as a gift. We’d be delighted to welcome potential owners along to our rescue centres to meet the rabbits we have waiting for a fresh start in life and loving new homes. For more information about rehoming a rescue rabbit, call 03000 999 999 or visit scottishspca.org/rehoming.

• Mike Flynn is chief superintendent with the Scottish SPCA.