The welfare and health status of pet rabbits in Dutch retail
Gemert, T. van
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This study is part of an ongoing project at the University of Utrecht. The aim of this large project is to evaluate the health and welfare of pet rabbits in the Netherlands across the entire sector. This includes eight different segments: hobby breeders, commercial breeders, traders, retail, animal markets, petting zoos, animal shelters and the costumers (private pet owners). Attention was paid to the nutrition, housing, health and natural behaviour of the rabbits. This study focuses on the retail segment which by itself can be divided into three subcategories: individual pet shops, chain stores and garden centres. The research question is ‘What is the current health and welfare status, analysed by means of the Welfare Quality Index (WQI), of pet rabbits at different types of retail in the Netherlands?’. In addition to the main research question the differences between in the health and welfare of rabbits kept in the different subcategories of the retail segment was analysed. The results from this study show that there are some problems with the health and welfare of the rabbit in the retail facilities that could be improved. These are, the vaccination status, the size of the enclosures, the provision of enrichment and a retreat area, the diet could be improved by giving less concentrate and more fresh greens, and the social housing could be improved as well since many rabbits are housed solitarily. Not many differences were found between the different subcategories. These findings suggest that there are still some points of interest when it comes to the health and welfare of the rabbits in the Dutch retail. Also improving the welfare of the rabbits in the retail facilities might also have a positive impact on the private sector by providing the right example.