RSCPA warns a rising interest in lockdown ‘starter pets’ could lead to increased neglect

The RSPCA has warned of a potential increase in neglect after observing a rise in interest for “starter pets” over lockdown.

It comes after it was found that the number of people searching for small pets to buy online soared during since March when compared to last year, with searches for rabbits alone tripling and nearly 240 rabbits were taken into care by the RSPCA across the UK due to cruelty, neglect or abandonment from 23rd March – 31st August 2020.

The animal welfare charity has predicted that this is due to people believing they are great pets for children to start out with and thus failing understanding that they have “complex needs”.

The RSCPA has revealed that it dealt with 832 incidents involving small furry pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters in Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside last year.

Dr Jane Tyson, from the RSPCA’s Companion Animals Department, said: “Small furries (hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs) can be fantastic pets to have, however they have a reputation as a good ‘starter pet’ for children as there is a misconception that they are easy to look after, but they actually have quite complex needs.

Unsplash / Ricky Kharawala

“For example, rabbits need to live in pairs as they are sociable animals – and need a much bigger space to explore and exercise in than just a hutch.

“During lockdown there seems to have been an increase in interest for starter pets, which may be because parents were at home with their children and so thought it was a good time to bring a new pet into the family.

“While we believe many people buy a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster or other small furry with good intentions, and many will also do their research, there is a risk that not enough research is being done and we are concerned that this could lead to an increase in neglect of small furries in the months to come.”

The RSPCA is encouraging people to adopt “small furries” from their local RSPCA branch to ensure that they have the right information and advice to look after their pets.

You can find more information via the RSPCA website here.

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