Popular stompers – and a need to explain

Rabbits are popular domestic animals and pets but keeping of them is often underestimated. Rabbits are put to versatile use and serve us as a pass-time, as breeding objects, meat suppliers and experimental animals. Nevertheless, we hardly know them. Thanks to animal protection research, supported by the Zurich Animal Protection Association for decades, we now know more about the natural requirements of rabbits. But much convincing remains to be done for the rabbits to be able to benefit from this.


Frequent animal protection problems

Contrary to their needs, rabbits are still primarily held alone, in small, scarcely or hardly furnished barns and cages. Rabbits are often held together with guinea pigs. This translates into a lack of species-appropriate social contacts and exercise for the animals. Suffering caused by breeding is widespread, primarily in dwarf-sized rabbit species. Rabbits held as pets are often fed incorrectly. In addition to this, they are often neglected or they breed so excessively that they are put down.


Legal minimum requirements for rabbits

The general stipulations of the Swiss Animal Protection Act (TschG) and the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance (TschV) also apply to rabbits. In addition to this, by the end of August 2013 at latest, holders producing more than 500 animals a year must furnish proof of professional expertise (art. 31, para. 4, let. D, TschV). Furthermore, articles 64 and 65 of the Animal Protection Ordinance regulate how to keep rabbits occupied, rabbit housing in groups, and definitions of cage and barn size and structure (re. addendum 1, tabl. 8 and corresponding remarks) as well as providing special regulations for pregnant ewes. Article 184 lists the admissible anesthetizing methods prior to slaughtering.


From an animal protection perspective, however, the legal stipulations – in particular those governing social contact – are insufficient and contradictory, because the law does not stipulate the keeping of grown animals in groups.


Appropriate Holding of Rabbits

Kaninchen am Ruhen
© G. Trachsel

Additional information

  • Keeping rabbits, a brochure of the Zurich Animal Protection Association (german)
  • Keeping rabbits, an information flyer of the Veterinary Association for Animal Protection e.V. (german)
  • Kaninchenhilfe.ch. Please refer to this site to obtain advice on holding rabbits as well as to access the information material on-line shop