THE Scottish SPCA has launched its first ever rabbit awareness week after an increase in the number of the animals being abandoned or neglected over the last four years.
Scotland’s animal welfare charity fears more rabbits than ever before are being mistreated, neglected and forgotten about, prompting it to launch the campaign, which runs until Sunday.
It is also encouraging existing and would-be owners in Edinburgh and the Lothians to consider taking on a rescue rabbit, with the number of abandoned, unwanted and neglected bunnies coming into its care steadily increasing over the last four years.
A total of 73 rabbits has already been taken in by the Edinburgh and Lothians Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Balerno this year, 35 of which were cared for by the centre in March alone.
Manager of the charity’s Edinburgh and Lothians Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre, Diane Stewart, said: “In 2011, we rescued 163 rabbits.
“This year is proving to be very challenging as well 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 into one of our rescue centres unwanted.”
Last year’s figure compares with 92 in 2010 and 120 in 2009.
The local figures – which include abandonments, unwanted rabbits, those removed from owners for neglect or cruelty reasons, and strays found outdoors, many of which may have been abandoned – are also reflected nationally, with the Scottish SPCA rescuing 714 rabbits across the country in 2011, compared to 548 in 2008.
Ms Stewart added: “While we never encourage taking on a pet on impulse, we do have six rabbits at our centre 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.”
For more information, call 03000 999 999 or visit www.scottishspca.org/rehoming.