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    Research to improve rabbit welfare

    Posted 24 August 2015

    Sue Jeavons at the on-campus Companion Animal House

    A lecturer at Harper Adams University is investigating ways to improve the welfare of commercially bred rabbits through research that reviews their housing conditions.

    Sue Jeavons is looking at whether practical improvements in nest box design can meet the nesting requirements of rabbits, and therefore improve their welfare.

    Mrs Jeavons, who teaches companion animal health and manages the on-campus Companion Animal House teaching facility, is researching the topic for her MPhil.

    She said: “Rabbit welfare is a particular area of interest for me because these popular pets can often be misunderstood and housed in less than favourable conditions.

    “Having kept pet rabbits for a number of years now and teaching their husbandry at Harper Adams, I have a genuine desire to improve their welfare.”

    Mrs Jeavons, who started working at Harper Adams seven years ago, began the project in September and will be considering nest box type, bedding and other influencing factors.

    She is also conducting a literature review and evaluation of current pet rabbit breeding practices to identify the factors that influence nest use and suitability for rabbits.

    “I hope to assess rabbit preference and motivation for nest box type, the substrate used close to the nest and the distance between the general hutch space and nest box,” she added.

    “So this research will enable us to invent an optimum nest box type and design which could potentially be implemented in large commercial pet rabbit breeding facilities, in the hope of improving doe welfare.

    “With more than three million pet rabbits in the UK, this research will also raise awareness of current pet breeding practices in the UK and therefore improve overall welfare.”

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