Every day rabbits are passed from home to home and once you have rabbits of your own you will often find people come to you with stories of rabbits needing taken in and asked if you can help or tagging you in rabbit adverts. As tempting as it is to offer help, where does it end? Sadly it is never a case of taking one rabbit, there will always be others. Unless you are prepared and equipped to start a rescue with the needed resources, we strongly recommend not taking in an unknown rabbit.
What can happen if you take in an unknown rabbit?
Fighting between your existing bonded rabbits - Bringing home a new rabbit into the territory of your bonded rabbits will often cause referred aggression and stress on your rabbits from the scent of the new rabbit. This is a common occurrence and can be extremely stressful to deal with. There will never be a situation in where your rabbits will be happy to see the new rabbit, as rabbits are highly protective and territorial.
Fatal diseases and viruses - the rabbit you are considering taking in may "appear" healthy, but there are many hidden conditions that the rabbit may be carrying which are contagious to other rabbits. Bringing home a "random" rabbit can result in your own rabbits picking up a highly contagious condition like Pasteurella, EC or Coccidiosis which could be fatal for your own rabbits. Without testing the new rabbit, you do not know what they are carrying.
Mountains of vet bills - until the rabbit has been recently vet checked by a rabbit vet, you don't know what they may be suffering with. Often rabbits are abandoned because they have health issues and these are expensive. A rabbit with dental disease or other health issue will cost thousands of pounds, not to mention you will have to neuter and vaccinate this new rabbit which alone will cost hundreds of pounds. Are you prepared for four figure bills with a brand new animal who is uninsured?
Infestations - the unwanted rabbit may be carrying fleas, mites or worms if they have been neglected. These can result in an infestation in your home and your other animals.
When things go wrong, what do you do?
If one or more of these thing happens when you take an unknown rabbit home, do you plan on sticking by that rabbit no matter what? Like all rescues, we get countless emails from people every week who find themselves in these situations and expect rescues to take the rabbit instantly off their hands. People often think they are helping the rescue by taking the rabbit in, but to the contrary. This puts rescues under tremendous pressure as they have a structured and organised ways they prioritise rescue spaces and this often creates a bigger problem for them.
So what can you do instead to help?
REPORT - If you see an advert you think is an unscrupulous breeder or someone breeding their rabbit, you can report these adverts now to your local council as they need a license to do this. You can also report to the selling page like Facebook and Gumtree as they are no longer allowed to advertise animals there.
OFFER RESOURCES - Offer the person resources to help them care for their rabbit better and give them the details of rescue centres to contact to get on waiting lists for a space.
SUPPORT RESCUES - Instead of making things harder for the rescue by taking in a rabbit and then needing a rescue to take them off you, make it your focus to support rescues so that they can help more rabbits. Fostering is the biggest way you can help rabbits first hand while getting the rescues help, advice plus the rescue covers all the vet bills and assessments of the rabbits so that you have no surprises.
VET CARE - If you have already taken in a rabbit, you should ensure you provide that rabbit with the necessary vet and medical attention regardless if you are keeping the rabbit. Ensure you isolate them away from all other rabbits and put infection control procedures in place, and have the rabbit vaccinated as quickly as possible. If you do then need a rescues help with the rabbit, they will be able to help quicker if the rabbit has been vet checked and neutered & vaccinated.