Possibly the biggest threat to rabbit welfare right now is the huge upsurge in unlicensed breeders appearing on classified advertisements on the internet.
These breeders are not subject to any regulations, legislation or welfare checks and they provide no care advice to their customers thus endangering the lives of animals across the UK.
To start to tackle this problem, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF), with support from ethical retailer Pets Corner, launched the Capone Campaign.
Using bespoke software, the charity has analysed thousands of ‘rabbit for sale’ adverts to identify unlicensed pet retailers allowing its Welfare Officer to provide robust evidence to the relevant local authority to catch the culprits.
By reporting traders in this way the RWAF aims to
- Identify unlicensed sellers where welfare standards are potentially poor
- Make local authorities aware of the problems that unlicensed sellers cause
- Make it more difficult for these sellers to operate so that it is less appealing and less rewarding
- Uncover poor welfare standards that can then be reported to the RSPCA and action taken
- Make a log of responses and actions taken by local authorities and identify idle areas or those requiring improvement
- Gather information to build a sound basis for lobbying for better welfare or resources in local authorities
To date two online sellers have been licensed by their local authorities as a direct result of the campaign – a first for England and a hugely encouraging coup for the campaign. As well as a warning to other back yard breeders, retailers will be inspected annually and be required to follow set conditions to help to improve rabbit welfare.
Rae Todd from RWAF said:
“The RWAF hope these examples will set a precedent for local authorities to interpret the act in a way that reflects what is happening in today’s society. Where this doesn’t happen, we are keen to enter a dialogue with DEFRA to tighten the guidelines. We are eager for a change in the law to help regulate and control online sellers of pets, but until then we will continue to work with the tools we have. If more sellers can be uncovered and licensed it all helps in the battle for positive animal welfare.”