Conditions of pet rabbit breeding colonies and breeder practices are undocumented and very little is known about the pet rabbit sales market. Here, multiple methods were employed to investigate this sector of the UK pet industry. A freedom of information request sent to 10% of councils revealed confusion and inconsistency in licensing conditions. Data from 1-month of online sale adverts (3446) identified 646 self-declared breeders, of which 1.08% were licensed. Further, despite veterinary advice to vaccinate rabbits from five weeks, only 16.7% rabbits were vaccinated and 9.2% of adult rabbits were neutered. Thirty-three breeders completed a questionnaire of which 51.5% provided smaller housing than recommended, the majority housed rabbits singly and bucks were identified as most at risk of compromised welfare. However, most breeders provided enrichment and gave a diet compliant with recommended guidelines. Mini-lops and Netherland dwarfs were the most commonly sold breeds, both of which are brachycephalic, which can compromise their health and wellbeing. From sales data extrapolation, we estimate that 254,804 rabbits are purposefully bred for the UK online pet sales market each year. This data is the first of its kind and highlights welfare concerns within the pet rabbit breeding sector, which is unregulated and difficult to access.
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