The rabbit – Britain’s unloved pet?

Figure 1: Rabbit and food bowl. Photo: C Ellis

Submitted by Clare Ellis
Postgraduate Researcher Moulton College & University of Northampton

Rabbits are one of Britain’s top five most popular pets (PFMA, 2013) yet recent research (PDSA Wellbeing report 2013) has shown that they are often not kept in appropriate conditions, and hundreds of rescue centres all over Britain take in unwanted pet rabbits each year.

New research being carried out by research staff at Moulton College & the University of Northampton is investigating how BIG Britain’s bunny problem is.

Rabbit Rehome, just one online directory for rescue centres, listed 246 centres that take in rabbits. Camp Nibble, located in West Leeds, is one such rescue centre, where the dedicated team take in rabbits that have either been, given up by owners, neglected or abandoned and in the last year they took in 153 rabbits.

Camp Nibble have been working to improve rabbit welfare by campaigning for a code of practice for pet rabbits. Hannah Potts, Founder of Camp Nibble is on the front line, taking in rabbits in need of homes. “They are widely misunderstood animals and are very often mistakenly taken on as cheap, easy pets. In many cases the responsibility for their care is even left in the hands of children.”

Britain’s BIG Bunny Study Phase 1

Figure 3: Dutch rabbit and inkblot (personality) test. Photo: C Ellis 2013.

Figure 3: Dutch rabbit and inkblot (personality) test. Photo: C Ellis 2013.

The current research is investigating the scale of the problem and the reasons why rabbits are given up by their owners. Understanding why people decide to give up their pet rabbits is the first hurdle. For many it will no doubt be a difficult but unavoidable decision. The hope of this research is to better understand the circumstances that cause rabbit –owner relationships to break down. However by focusing on rescue centres alone we may be missing part of the picture.

British public invited to take part in research

Members of the public are being invited to take part in this research by completing a quick and simple online survey. The main aim of the survey is to identify other places people may use to give up pets, such as friends, family members or online adverts. Anyone that currently owns, or has previously owned any pet can take part.

Figure 2: Clare Ellis & Rex cross rabbit. Photo: Learning Materials team at Moulton College.

Anyone wanting to take a more active role in this research can let us know by adding their email address at the end of the survey. The aim is to engage as many current and past pet owners as possible for phase 1 of the study, and hopefully many of them will be keen to find out about phase 2, where things will really start to get interesting…

Britain’s BIG Bunny Study’s public survey launched on 14th April in time for the Easter bunnies arrival, and continues through to National Rabbit Awareness Week in May (10th – 18th May).

To follow this research check out @rabbitphd on Twitter, &


About Simone Apel

Researcher Developer for The Graduate School, University of Northampton.

Posted on April 23, 2014, in Moulton College, News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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