BVNA have recently developed a Welfare of Pets in Schools Toolkit – a new resource available to veterinary professionals, schools and parents to promote responsible pet ownership, especially in a school environment. The toolkit includes podcasts, downloadable resources and signposting to information from pet welfare organisations.

Rae Walters, Director at Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, kindly contributed to the content on the toolkit:

Rae got her first house rabbits in 1997, and joined the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWA&F) team in the same year. She is now a Director, and shares her home with a group of 4 rabbits. Having spent several years as an RSPCA home checker she is, like all of the Directors, a huge supporter of rabbit rescue.

The RWA&F is a small but dedicated team and this means that Rae undertakes all of the ‘A Hutch is Not Enough’ campaigning and strategy for the RWA&F. She attends all of the meetings on other committees and groups to represent the RWA&F and rabbit welfare, and liaises with other organisations and the retail trade.

Rae says:

Keeping a pet rabbit (or rabbits) at school for the pupils to look after on the premises, and to take home at weekends and holidays is an old tradition in the UK. Thankfully, as more staff and parents realise that schools are not a good environment to meet rabbits’ complex welfare needs, school rabbits have become far less common. But they do still exist.

The idea of taking on school rabbits can sound good in theory, perhaps as a way of teaching the children responsibility and giving them the experience of caring for animals, but the reality is very different. Keeping rabbits in a school environment creates numerous welfare problems for rabbits because of the stressful, constantly changing environment and insufficient accommodation. It also causes problems for the school when the reality of looking after rabbits properly becomes apparent. Rabbits can live for over ten years. There will be regular clean-outs, expensive and time-consuming vet trips, neutering, vaccinations and the need for out-of-hours care if and when they become unwell. Another set of problems for the school can arise if a child gets bitten or scratched, or when rabbit-savvy parents object, like the RWAF does, to the practice of keeping rabbits at school and make their feelings known.

Listen to Kim Rathbone interviewing Rae here:

The BVNA Welfare of Pets in Schools Toolkit is available here.

Thank you to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund for contributing to this project.