Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for what reasons did the recently published Action Plan for Animals not include domestic rabbit welfare.
The Government continues to take positive action to protect the welfare of companion animals – including domestic rabbits. The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations, introduced in 2018, require anyone who is in the business of selling rabbits as pets to obtain a valid licence from their local authority. Licence holders must meet strict statutory minimum welfare standards which are enforced by local authorities who have powers to issue, refuse or revoke licences. The 2018 Regulations are supported by statutory guidance which provides specific information about the keeping of rabbits for sale:
Additional advice is available to help pet owners provide for the welfare needs of their rabbit, including the British Rabbit Council’s Codes of Practice: https://thebritishrabbitcouncil.org/codes-practice.php
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to cause any animal unnecessary suffering or to fail to provide for its welfare. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 was recently granted Royal Assent. This realises the Government’s manifesto commitment to increase the sentences available to our courts for the most serious cases of animal cruelty. It means that from 29 June 2021, anyone who is cruel to an animal (including domestic rabbits) faces being sent to prison for up to five years, or receiving an unlimited fine, or both.
The Action Plan for Animal Welfare is an ambitious plan which sets out an overview of the Government’s main priorities on animal welfare and conservation, particularly those which require legislative action and reform. It is not exhaustive of every animal welfare issue which the Government covers. While the Action Plan does not refer explicitly to rabbit welfare, the Government cares about rabbit welfare and my department continues to work closely with organisations such as the Companion Animal Sector Council to monitor developments in welfare standards for all domestic animals including rabbits. My department is also happy to engage with rabbit welfare groups on an ongoing basis about their concerns.