Bristol Animal Rescue Centre inundated with rabbits as owners struggle to afford pets

  • Watch Adam Grierson's report

An animal shelter in Bristol is seeing a huge rise in the number of rabbits being handed in as their owners struggle to afford to keep their pets.

Staff at the Bristol Animal Rescue Centre (BARC) have taken on a third more bunnies this year compared to 2021, while that figure has almost doubled compared to 2020.

It has led to the shelter, which is part of the RSPCA Bristol and District Branch, dubbing the situation a 'rabbit crisis'.

Gina Jones, from BARC, said there are a number of reasons for the increase in rabbits in need of adoption this year.

She said: "The cost of living crisis plays a part, more people struggling financially to afford their pets, which is a really sad result of the crisis."

The cost of living crisis means some can no longer afford to properly care for their pet

But Gina added that it may also be down to the many requirements needed for someone to properly care for a bunny.

She said: "A lot of people assume that a rabbit is going to be a really nice starter pet, and they do make lovely pets. However, a lot of people don't realise the cost and the implications of looking after them long term.

"Rabbits can live eight to twelve years, so it is quite a big commitment and a lot of people don't realise that when they adopt them."

Rabbits need toys, lots of space and can live for more than a decade - something some pet owners don't realise when they first adopt them

The number of animals in need of a new home, and not just rabbits, has prompted the RSPCA to launch a campaign this month called 'Adoptober'.

People are being asked to consider adopting one of the many pets at animal shelters across the South West.

The campaign has highlighted the case of a six-foot mastiff that struggled to find a forever home and six 'earless' bunnies who have been overlooked by adopters because of their unusual appearance.

'No-one wants an unhappy bunny'

But before people can adopt a rabbit, Georgia Hawkins, an animal care assistant at BARC, said people must make sure they have the right set-up.

Georgia said: "One thing is to make sure you have the space to be able to have a rabbit, and especially if you want a bonded pair of rabbits, they do need a lot of space, whether that's indoors or outdoors.

The shelter in Bristol has received a third more bunnies in need of a home than it did in 2021

"They need to be able to provide the correct housing, and just making sure you've got all your facts right before you go out and get a rabbit, because there is a lot more to owning a rabbit than what people think.

"They need the toys, they need the enrichment, because otherwise they will live a very boring life and then you're going to have an unhappy rabbit and nobody wants an unhappy bunny."