Buddies Bunny Rescue in Midlothian says it cannot cope with any more stray rabbits while it attempts to rehome the dozens of animals it is caring for. Bosses suspect the economic climate is one of the main reasons behind the spike in dumped pets as people simply cannot afford to look after them any more.
Natalie Constance, a co-manager at the centre near Bonnyrigg which opened in June last year, said: “We have 80 at the moment but we couldn’t survive without the help of our volunteers and foster carers.
“We had to shut our doors since the start of the August because of the amount of strays being brought to us.
“We have had to put people on waiting lists now because it’s really quite bad. I think a lot of rescue centres are having to deal with this problem.”
Rabbit experts say keeping a pair of rabbits for the duration of their life can cost as much as £11,000.
Rae Todd, an officer with the Rabbit Welfare Association, said: “It could be that times are tough, which is why we are seeing this rise in abandonment.
“But it’s not just rabbits that are suffering, it seems to affect all pets. Often they are the first things to go when people are cutting back.”
Rabbits can live for up to 14 years, requiring a long-term commitment from owners.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “In 2011, our Edinburgh and Lothians Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre cared for 162 rabbits and this year has been just as busy.
“The majority arrive to our centres as strays, but we fear many have actually been abandoned by their owners as very few are ever reclaimed.
“We expect we’ll see more rabbits coming into our care as the summer ends and the dark nights set in.
“It’s very sad but, in our experience, some people simply cannot be bothered looking after their rabbit in the colder months.
“The thought of having to go outdoors and clean out a hutch in the wind and the rain is enough to make them give up on their pets altogether.
“We want people to realise that taking on a pet is a responsibility and a commitment, and you can’t just dump your animal outdoors when you’ve had enough.
“Not only is this extremely irresponsible and cruel, it is also a criminal offence.”