The RSPCA has issued a warning about releasing pet rabbits into the wild after three were found dead in a public woodland.
Another was found in a nearby garden severely underweight, covered in scabs and with an ear injury in what investigators fear was part of a group abandonment. Four more rabbits are still missing.
Two women were seen pushing a trolley in the area of Blackley Vale Fields in Greater Manchester shortly before the tragic rabbits were discovered but it is unknown if the incidents are connected.
Pet rabbits are unable to survive in the wild as they are at risk of predators and rely on humans for food and shelter. NimbleFins previously explained how wild rabbits have a lifespan of just one or two years compared to a pet rabbit living until eight to 12-years-old due to these very reasons.
Releasing rabbits into the wild is cruel and irresponsible, the RSPCA says.
RSPCA animal rescue officer Steve Wickham, who collected the dead rabbits, said: “This was a shocking incident involving a large number of pets who were abandoned and left to their fate and we’re very keen to hear from anyone who may have information about those responsible. It’s a common misconception that domestic rabbits will survive if they are released into the wild and the simple answer is that they won’t.
“The rabbit who was found alive was easily handled and has been thoroughly checked over and treated for his torn ear, which could have occurred as a result of infighting with other males in the group he was being kept with. He should go on to make a full recovery and we’ll then look to rehome him.
“If people are struggling to cope with their animals we’d urge them to seek help and advice rather than taking drastic action like we’ve seen here.”
Cost to keep a rabbit
In just January this year the RSPCA dealt with more than 1,500 incidents of animals being abandoned in Manchester, an increase of 10 percent year on year.
It also has more than 100 unwanted rabbits living in private boarding around Manchester because it is so stretched for space at its centre.
The charity believes this is partly down to families underestimating the costs involved when buying a rabbit. Research by NimbleFins estimates the cost of keeping a rabbit in the UK per month is between £67 to £76. Set up fees are thought to be just over £600.
The male rabbit, which was a similar colour to the three found dead, is being treated at the RSPCA's General Manchester Animal Hospital after the incident, which happened at about 2.45pm on Saturday, February 4.
Anyone with information can call the RSPCA confidentially on 0300 123 8018.
Anyone who is unable to care for their rabbit, or any other pet, is urged to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 0650 for practical help and advice, or visit its cost of living hub. You can also call the RSPCA’s special helpline on 0300 123 0650.