Fears the Year of the Rabbit could bring about a wave of abandoned pets

Pet welfare groups in Malaysia and Singapore have warned consumers not to buy rabbits to mark lunar new year, fearing a plethora of abandoned animals could follow.

High demand for the small mammals is expected as 22 January marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit. Mohideen Abdul Kader, president of the Consumers’ Association of Penang in Malaysia, said it was inevitable considering “the belief that it will bring good luck”.

“However, as with other past zodiacal hype, many rabbits will be left to their fate once the novelty dies off,” he said.

The Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told local media it received about 60 reports of abandonment annually, despite the fact that failure to care for pets was a criminal offence in the country, carrying a fine up to $100,000 as well as a potential three-year prison sentence.

House Rabbit Society Singapore, according to its president Betty Tan, said it had taken in 21 rabbits since the start of December and usually received more “surrender requests” around festive seasons.

“This upcoming year of the rabbit will be a challenging year for the rabbit rescue groups as we anticipate there will be more surrender cases as a result of impulse [buying] of rabbits”, she said. The society was urging people to understand the commitment before acquiring on.

According to RSPCA Australia, there is a misconception that rabbits are “easy” first pets to have when in fact they have “specific needs”, and have a lifespan of up to 12 years.

“Despite their popularity, rabbits are among the most neglected animals that humans have domesticated, insensitive to the suffering such domestication often entails”, Kader said.

He suggested people opt for a toy rabbit as an alternative this lunar new year.


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