Seven extremely sick rabbits were found dumped in woodland in Peterborough by a man out blackberry picking.
The rabbits, which were all young females, had been abandoned in a wooded area by a river on the edge of a car park off Potters Way.
The man, who spotted the rabbits on Saturday morning (August 13), called the RSPCA and inspector Carrie O’Riordan went along.
“I’m very grateful to the gentleman who reported the rabbits to us, waited for me to arrive, and also helped me catch five of the bunnies,” inspector O’Riordan said.
“So far, we’ve not been able to catch the other two and, despite a thorough search of the area, we can’t be sure there aren’t other rabbits who were dumped alongside these ones.”
The five rabbits who were captured - estimated to be aged under six-months-old - were very poorly with serious symptoms of myxomatosis and had to be put to sleep by a vet to end to their suffering. The RSPCA returned the following day to try to catch the remaining rabbits but could not locate them.
“This is a very serious act of cruelty,” inspector O’Riordan said. “Myxomatosis is an horrific viral disease which causes an awful amount of pain and suffering for rabbits who contract it.
“We always advise rabbit owners have their pet vaccinated to lower their chances of contracting the disease.
“For someone to abandon these bunnies, who were obviously in pain and distress, and fail to seek proper veterinary care for them is just despicable.
“They were extremely lucky to have been found in the remote and overgrown spot they had been dumped. Although it was a very sad ending for these bunnies, the slow, agonising death they faced in the wild doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Myxomatosis is a virus which is spread by fleas, mites and mosquitoes, and is widespread in wild rabbits in Britain. A regular vaccine for pet rabbits is advised to help protect them from the virus.
Early symptoms include swellings around the face, eyes and ears which can cause blindness and can spread to the rear end. They can also suffer from a high fever and can struggle to eat and drink.
The viral disease usually kills the rabbit within 10-14 days and is very difficult to treat as there is no known cure meaning recovery is very rare.
“This thoughtless and cruel act not only led to the intense suffering of these rabbits, but also put wild rabbits in the area at risk due to the highly contagious nature of the disease,” inspector O’Riordan added.
“We would like to hear from anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area or who may recognise the rabbits or know where they came from to get in touch with us on 0300 123 8018.”
Every year the RSPCA is called out to rescue hundreds of animals across England and Wales after their owners abandon them and in many cases leave them for dead. Last year, we collected 512 abandoned rabbits. To assist our inspectors in rescuing abandoned animals and to help our hospitals in treating them, please visit: www.rspca.org.uk/abandonment.
The RSPCA is a charity which relies on public donations to exist. To assist our inspectors carry out their work please text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (Texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message).