Rabbit relinquishment through online classified advertisements in the United Kingdom
The rehoming of companion animals is a welfare concern. We were interested in finding out how many rabbits were rehomed through online classified adverts in the United Kingdom, and in understanding why caregivers decided to rehome their rabbits. This required a lot of data. So, we used internet bots to automatically collect publicly available advert content from the website Preloved across 2016. We also manually collected data by looking at the number of adverts across a wider range of websites between 2014 and 2016. We found that in 2016, there were 7315 unique adult rabbits advertised on Preloved with an average age of 14 months. The number of adverts posted decreased from 2014 to 2016, perhaps suggesting that the Pet Advertising Advisory Group’s (PAAG) scheme to remove adverts that didn’t meet their minimum standards was successful. We also found that there was increase in the number of adverts for free rabbits in winter compared with other seasons, which could be a result of caregivers’ reduced willingness to interact with their rabbits and carry out husbandry during periods of inclement weather. Finally, the data showed that rabbits advertised as free were older than rabbits advertised for sale, and rabbits relinquished due to human-related reasons were older than those relinquished because of rabbit-related factors. We recommend that further research is undertaken to elucidate whether providing education to prospective rabbit caregivers regarding the life span of rabbits and their substantial husbandry requirements, especially in winter, would deter the purchase of rabbits by caregivers unable or unwilling to care for them in the long term.
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