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Call for stricter regulation of rabbit breeders
More than 50 per cent of rabbit breeders provided smaller than recommended housing.
Survey sheds light on elusive industry 

Researchers at the Universities of Nottingham and Winchester are calling for stricter regulation of the rabbit breeding industry after a survey found that only one per cent of all breeders are licensed.

Animal welfare researcher Emma Gosling, who oversaw the work as part of her Master's degree, said that the majority of breeders in the UK appear to be unlicensed and are therefore untraceable and unaccountable for their animal’s welfare.

“I hope the new information gathered by my research will fill a gap in knowledge about the industry and foster a new awareness of best practice in rabbit welfare as well as improve licensing compliance among breeders and local councils,” she said.

The Rabbit Breeder Survey found that the most commonly bred sold rabbits were breeds with brachycephalic faces. Whilst most of the breeders provided good diets and toys, more than 50 per cent provided smaller than recommended housing.

The survey also revealed that most breeders housed most rabbits singly, against animal welfare recommendations. Furthermore, it found that most local councils did not use their licensing powers effectively to police commercial rabbits breeding.

Researchers are now calling on organisations to make use of the new study to create interventions to safeguard the welfare of rabbits used for breeding. They urge local councils to review their policies regarding the licensing of pet shops and breeders and to step up efforts to regulate the industry.

Furthermore, the team would like to see the creation of approved guidelines for managing and breeding pet rabbits. In particular, they would like to see this in England, which currently lacks approved guidance on how to meet pet rabbits’ welfare needs.

"Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the country with an estimated population of 1.5 million so it is vitally important that more is known about how these animals are kept, bred and sold,” said Dr Naomi Harvey from the University of Nottigham’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“It is clear from the Freedom of Information request to local councils in the UK that more needs to be done to make them aware of the extent of the industry and what they can do to help improve the rabbits’ welfare using their licensing powers.”

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Wales to ban third party puppy and kitten sales

News Story 1
 The Welsh Government has said it will ban third party sales of puppies and kittens, after a consultation showed overwhelming public support.

A consultation in February received nearly 500 responses, most of whom called for greater action to improve the welfare of cats and dogs at all breeding premises.

Concerns were also raised about online sales, impulse buying, breeder accountability and illegal puppy imports.

A consultation will now be held on plans to implement a ban. Environment minister Lesley Griffiths said she will also revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions.  

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WHO declares Congo Ebola outbreak an international health emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The move comes after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the DRC. The committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma - a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The committee also reinforced the need to protect the livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open.