Four out of five rabbits bought as pets near Easter or Christmas are abandoned or die within a year.
Parents are being encouraged not to buy their kids a bunny for Christmas present or Easter bunny this year, as a majority will end up in rescue centres in the following 12 months.
Rabbit welfare organisation Make Mine Chocolate want people to think twice before buying the animals, and suggest anyone not sure if they’re ready for the commitment of being an owner should opt for confectionery instead.
Pets shops are also being urged to suspend sales of rabbits over the Easter holidays because as many as 80 per cent die due to neglect or are given to shelters.
The Make Mine Chocolate Rabbit Rescue Survey, which collected data from 59 rescues and a total of 4235 rabbits, revealed that over half of the 67,000 rabbits entering rescue annually (data from the Rabbit Welfare Association) were bought in a shop rather than rescued from a shelter, and 59 per cent of those entering shelters were given up after less than a year of ownership.
Make Mine Chocolate spokesperson, Lisa Whitty, told Metro.co.uk:’Many believe that rabbits are a cheap and easy pet suitable for children, and will take little convincing to buy one when faced with a multitude of cute fluffy bunnies in the pet store – particularly when coupled with child ‘pester power’.
‘However, rabbits are far from easy – or cheap. And it should be remembered that a rabbit, as a prey species, is very different to a cat or a dog. Their instinct is to ensure they can always escape, and they will always try to hide any illness or injury.
‘A rabbit can cost around £1000 annually, requires some specialist care and knowledge and as they do not like being held or cuddled, are not suitable for children. Rabbits have powerful back legs and very sharp teeth, and if frightened, they will use everything possible to get free.
She added: ‘Rabbits also need the companionship of another rabbit for their own wellbeing, and both should be neutered for health and prevention of behavioural issues. In addition, potential owners must think to the future; a rabbit can live for 10 or more years and are a life-long commitment.
‘Rabbits can make wonderful additions to the household, either indoor or outdoor, but any potential new owner must do their homework first. Getting such things as accommodation, diet and bonding right are all imperative for a rabbits health and long-term wellbeing, but this does require knowledge and understanding.
‘If you’re thinking of getting a rabbit (or two!), please don’t rush into it this Easter. Visit your local rabbit rescue for information advice and possibly adoption.’