Rabbits: Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB0080)

Management

General

  1. Each rabbit should be inspected frequently during the day because, once ill, rabbits deteriorate rapidly. (3)
  2. It is desirable to establish a regular work routine. Care should be taken not to frighten the rabbits with sudden unaccustomed movement or noise, but without placing too much emphasis on quietness.
  3. Adequate control measures should be taken to avoid disturbance by rodents and other animals.
  4. Frequent checks should be made on the state of the bedding (see paragraph 21).
  5. Premises and equipment should be regularly cleaned and thoroughly dried before restocking. Thorough disinfection should be carried out at suitable times to reduce the danger of continuing infection.
  6. Vaccinations, injections and similar procedures should be undertaken by competent, trained operators. Care should be taken to prevent injury and unnecessary disturbance of the rabbits.
  7. Artificial insemination is a highly skilled procedure and should be carried out with the advice of a veterinary surgeon by competent, trained personnel maintaining a high standard of hygiene and taking care to avoid injury and unnecessary disturbance of the rabbits.
  8. Mating should be supervised, and to minimise the possibility of fighting, does should be taken to the buck.
  9. Litters under a week of age should be disturbed as little as possible and young rabbits should not be weaned before four weeks of age.
  10. Overgrowth of incisors can sometimes interfere seriously with feeding and cause damage to the rabbit's lips. The provision of wooden gnawing blocks particularly for breeding stock, can avoid the necessity to undertake tooth-trimming. Where tooth-trimming is necessary, it should be performed by a veterinary surgeon or by a competent trained operator.

Toe nail trimming

  1. Toe nails of confined adult rabbits should be trimmed periodically to prevent toe damage from overgrown nails catching on the hutch or cage. Care is needed when trimming to avoid damage to sensitive tissue.

Marking

  1. Where it is necessary to mark rabbits for permanent identification, tattooing is preferable to tagging which may result in damage to the ear being caused; a ring above the hock may be used but must be checked regularly to ensure it does not become tight, causing injury. Marking should be carried out by competent operators taking care to avoid unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to the rabbits.

Handling and slaughter of stock on the premises

  1. The proper handling of rabbits requires skill, and it should be undertaken only by competent persons. Rabbits should be lifted by grasping the loose skin at the back of the neck and supported by placing the hand under the hindquarters. Handling should be carried out quietly and confidently exercising care to avoid unnecessary struggling which could bruise or otherwise injure the animal.
  2. When rabbits are killed on the farm this must be done humanely.

Rabbits kept out of doors

  1. Attention is drawn to the relevant recommendations in paragraphs 33 - 51 inclusive.
  2. Precautions should be taken to protect rabbits from predators.
  3. Shelter from sun, rain and wind should always be available, and the hutch or pen roof should be extended sufficiently to ensure this.
  4. Accommodation should be so designed and maintained as to avoid draughts. Rabbits should have access to a dry-bedded area.
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