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Breeding - The truth behind the fancy breeds

There is a record number of rabbits being abandoned or rehomed, and this number has only skyrocketed during covid leaving rescues and shelters struggling to keep up with the demand but without the resources offered to species such as cats and dogs. Several countries are now facing a crisis for these rabbits as the risk of being euthanized increases when there is nowhere for these rabbits to go.


Owners who have tried to surrender or rehome their no longer wanted forever pets quickly realize how difficult it is to find somewhere for them to go. It becomes even more challenging when shelters and rescues charge a surrender fee to assist with the care and costs associated with taking over the responsibility of owning their no longer wanted forever pets, and with shelters and rescues being overcrowded many owners are put on a waitlist to surrender their pet at a later date. With many owners not wanting to pay the surrender fees, an increasing number of rabbits find themselves facing the death sentence of being abandoned outside without the skills, instincts, or ability that they require to survive on their own. Rabbits need both human and vet intervention for a healthy and happy life to have the ability to thrive.


Some may do what they believe is saving them from such a grim fate by offering their unwanted pets up for free to a “good home.” However, these homes are often poorly equipped to provide the proper care and commitment a rabbit requires, they face the risk of being used as snake food, the risk of owners euthanizing a rabbit due to being ill prepared for medical costs involved, when they are completely healthy with long lives ahead of them but euthanized out of convenience by their owners to no longer deal with the issue of not wanting them while they have nowhere else to go, etc.


Despite the best of intentions of a new rabbit owner, with the lack of credible and accurate information available on their needs and care it has led to improper setups of their new pet’s environment or a failure to realize how much effort and care they require. This directly leads to rabbits being abandoned, rehomed, medical issues being missed leading to a life-threatening condition, etc.


It takes a minimum of 6 months to find the rabbits at Hagrid’s Haven Rabbit Rescue the right forever homes with some waiting as long as two years. Yet breeders will send them off as young as 8 weeks to anyone showing an interest with some even having a waitlist for future litters. Babies that are taken from their mothers before 10-12 weeks are considered too young and may experience long term health issues, this can shorten their lifespan causing some to not even reach a year old.



Did you know 80% of rabbits purchased at Easter are surrendered or abandoned within the first year of ownership. With reasons such as the child no longer being interested, the parent realizing that a rabbit is not an appropriate pet, allergies, no longer a cute baby, aggression from an improper environment or not getting fixed, etc.


With 81% of rabbits purchased around Easter never getting spayed or neutered, they are typically already at risk of life-threatening conditions by the time they reach a rescue or shelter. Most breeders don’t do background checks on the people purchasing their rabbits nor do they have the time or resources to do home or follow up checks to ensure the welfare of their rabbits.

The stark reality is there are not enough responsible, suitable homes for the number of rabbits born each year resulting in this rescue crisis.


With it being so easy to purchase a rabbit on a whim, many owners have not learned how to properly care and provide for their pet and only attempt to learn after the rabbit has experienced issues or is in distress. This is not the appropriate way to learn and is one of the primary reasons so many are dumped and rehomed. Learning too late that we are unable to properly care for a pet while already having them in our care and promising them a FOREVER home, leads to long-lasting damaging effects to the pet(s) involved when being rehomed/abandoned. We greatly underestimate the psychological damage and PTSD that is done when these animals are abandoned and rehomed. They don’t understand why everything they know has been ripped away from them or if it will happen again. This leads to many issues involving trust which is now up to the next owner to help them out of and adds an additional complication for their ownership.


Purchasing a rabbit from a breeder or pet store may seem like the better choice but breeders are unable to have all the rabbit’s welfare needs met. Many breeders keep their breeding rabbits in cages with wire bottoms which do not meet the minimum space needed for proper exercise, leads to medical issues for their feet, and overall they are not kept in an area that is meant to allow them to thrive, they are solely a means of financial gain. While being kept in a wire cage may be easy for the breeder or owners, these are not only too small but can be dangerous to the rabbit. This type of flooring harms their feet leading them to sore hocks that can lead to abscesses needing surgical removal. Many don’t realize that rabbits don’t have padding on their feet, they have fur that goes directly to bone with no cushion. Imagine standing your entire life on flooring that cut up your feet and led to painful pressure sores (sore hocks) that turned into abscesses requiring surgery. This is what these rabbits are often subjected to by breeders and even some owners. Even if they were given more space and a proper set up, there is still no way for breeders to ensure all their needs are being met to allow them to thrive. With many medical issues of the breed coming out months after their adoptions have been made, without the breeder being willing to offer information about the breed/genetics, owners take these rabbits home very naïve to their care.


Most breeders claim to be "bettering the breed", "improving the genetics", "breeding for their health and temperament", etc. This is just not possible. To do this, breeders would have to genetically test each rabbit they breed from, not only is this testing not available currently but a breeder wouldn’t have the financial ability to do this. When breeders sell "healthy" kits at the young age of 8 weeks old, they are often unaware of potential health issues those rabbits can develop as they grow especially if the now owner does not keep in touch with them. Dental malocclusion typically become an issue around 8+ months if age, this is months past the date of purchase. Most owners are not told of common medical issues associated with the various breeds which leads owners into being shocked when vets are required when these medical issues arise.


The breeds of rabbits being bred for specific physical traits are often achieved through inbreeding, this can result in so many chronic medical issues due to breeders altering their anatomy. Rabbits that do not fit the breed standards, are too old to breed or sell, have medical conditions come up no matter how treatable they are, or otherwise no longer considered profitable are often culled/killed. Buying from a breeder directly supports these cruel practices.


Studies show that breeds such as dwarves, lops, and larger breeds have an increased risk of health issues including dental disease, ear conditions, heart disease, gastric issues, and more. Breeding rabbits further away from their wild counterparts only causes more suffering for rabbits. Breeding these rabbits specifically for appearance without consideration for their long-term health is considered extreme breeding due to the health concerns involved that are often fatal.


Depending on the females size, an average number in a litter is between 4-15 babies. The highest number of babies born in a litter is 24. Finding a home for these rabbits might seem easy but finding the right home who can provide the proper care throughout their lifetime is nearly impossible and since mature rabbits are able to procreate as soon as they give birth, the number of rabbits in need grows daily.


Without being spayed or neutered their hormone levels can cause them to be more territorial and aggressive with others who encroach on their area. This can be quite stressful on rabbits and can bring out dormant health issues requiring medical intervention from the stress they are experiencing. Not having a rabbit spayed or neutered is also detrimental to their health. By their first birthday they have the ability to enter into life-threating conditions such as pyometra, cancer, and many others. All these conditions are completely avoidable by getting them fixed. Breeding does not reduce the risk of any of these conditions. In fact, the longer they go without getting fixed the higher the risks get for entering into these life-threatening conditions that have no treatment or hope of recovery, only euthanasia.

When rescues are being asked to take in a surrender, we are often told returning the rabbit to the breeder is either not an option or they don't feel comfortable with the care they will receive with them and understand rescues go out of our way to properly care for every bun in our care. Most breeders won't that their rabbits back due to spacing issues, if they took back every rabbit that they sold this would impact their financial gain which isn't why they are in this business. Breeders are more concerned with the financial gain to the point that they are ok with subjecting rabbits to severe and often life-threatening conditions solely for appearance’s sake.


If you currently breed rabbits and want to stop, we are here to support you in this decision. We are more than happy to help to give you the advice, guidance, and support on how to responsibly and safely come down in numbers until you're able to close completely. We would love the opportunity to help you close your Rabbitry for the greater good of rabbits. No animal should be allowed to suffer for the sake of looks, let us help you no longer contribute to the rabbit crisis going on.





There are four main characteristics that are altered which classifies a domestic rabbit as an extreme breed. These are:


* Ear shape — lop or short ears

* Face shape — Brachycephalic, Dental Disease, etc.

* Fur Coat — dense/long/rex/wool/etc.

* Size — dwarves and giant breeds




Ear Shape:


Hearing and movement of the ears is extremely important to a rabbits understanding of the world around them and their survival depends on their ability to use them effectively. From the time their ears open and they are able to hear, they listen for any hint of danger while also using them to talk to each other. Without this ability to hear and process sounds around them or have range of movement, they can easily become stressed, anxious, and nervous in their environment as they do not have the ability to detect danger around them or have the ability to communicate with their friends to take in what's going on around them and access danger levels. Having this increased stress brings on medical conditions that would otherwise be dormant. Their hearing is so incredibly important that their ears open before their eyes, their ears open around 7 days old whereas their eyes open at 10-12 days. Without the ability to communicate their ears, they no longer have the ability to indicate to other rabbits around them that their intensions are. This communication deficit causes rabbits to become more stressed out when other rabbits approach, the inability to suss out danger around them, and the potential for more fights/aggressive behavior due to the inability to communicate effectively thanks to human intervention through breeding. With hearing being such a large part of safety, lops have been bred so that they are either partially if not completely deaf. This causes them to become more defensive especially if they don't see/hear someone/something approaching leading to see seeing more aggressive behavior from them. This is solely due to living in fear as their basic needs for survival are not met due to breeding. Taking away basic needs from a species is incredibly cruel, breeding animals knowing we are partially or completely taking away their hearing along with a form of communication is considered unethical. This is solely done for appearance’s sake with zero benefits to the rabbit, only suffering.


Lack of ventilation and a narrowed ear canal causes wax to build up which leads to moisture becoming trapped causing infections and ear abscesses. Lop eared rabbits will typically require costly and invasive surgery due to the structure of their ears.


Face Shape:


Rabbits being bred for their appearance like lops who have the flat/squished in face look, suffer beyond what's imaginable medically. Any breed with big bulgy eyes are prone to Glaucoma. With a rabbit’s mouth containing 28 teeth, there isn't enough space to fit all the teeth as needed onto their shorter jaw leading to dental issues requiring surgery. Rabbits with flat/squished in faces are prone to eye, ear, teeth, and breathing issues.


Dental disease is a very common condition with these breeds that isn't able to be resolved with diet and chews. With their shorter jaw it can lead them into infections, lacerations, abscesses, and jaw deformities.


Breeds like rexes have whiskers that do not allow them to fully understand the world around them. Whiskers and eyelashes are an important part of sensing distances between others/objects. Not being able to sense how close things are increases their threat level that they feel making them quick to react.


Fur Coat:


Domestic rabbits are bred with 4 main coat types. Only 1 is a normal rabbit coat and 3 are considered extreme and only possible through breeding. By changing their fur coat type solely for looks and human/selfish desire, only has a negative effect on rabbits as there is no benefit for them to be fluffy or feel a specific way.


Wild rabbits have short coats that allow water and dirt to wick away easily from their skin and are very low in grooming maintenance. Guard hairs are an important part of a rabbit’s coat, it helps to protect rabbits from each other in case they are bitten or a nail catches their skin. Breeds like rexes have been specifically bred to have no guard hairs to get that velvety soft feeling. This makes them prone to skin and muscle tears during negative interactions with other rabbits. This also means they are able to feel the injury more without this added protection. when they become injured or are attacked.


Breeds with thin fur coats, like rexes, don't offer the buns feet much protection leading into sore hocks especially as they age. Rabbits with longer and/or more dense fur coats like double maned Lionheads, Angoras, etc. can mat quite easily and therefore requires daily grooming. When they get matted, it acts like a sponge and can lead into dermatitis. The matted fur adds additional weight onto their anatomy which isn't set up to be able to handle more weight. With already not having the ability to regulate their body temperature, this type of fur aids in raising their body temperature which can lead into a heatstroke. This type of fur, being harder to maintain, can easily lead into blockages which can be fatal.




Size:


Giant rabbit breeds typically run into 3 main issues:


* heart

* hips

* joints


You may have noticed giant breeds have protruding third eyelids, what you might not know is this is due to the extreme pressure put on their small hearts. These larger breeds often have a shorter lifespan from heart failure, mobility issues, arthritis, etc. Their large size doesn't make them very agile, being clumsier they can be prone to injuries especially as they age.


With the compact body of a dwarf rabbit, the long digestive tract doesn't have enough space to fit properly and is instead squished inside. Dwarf rabbits run into digestive issues for this reason.

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