Hop to it! RSPCA launches urgent appeal for rabbit fosterers

The plea comes as one amazing fosterer recently helped her 500th rabbit

The RSPCA is urgently looking for new rabbit fosterers to come forward - joining heroes like one of the charity’s frontline officers who has fostered an incredible 76 bunnies this year alone.

The charity needs fosterers more than ever to win the ‘space race’ as rehoming of all pets has slowed by more than 8 per cent whilst the numbers of animals coming into the charity’s care has increased. 

The charity has released shocking new statistics revealing nearly 700 rescued animals are waiting for a space - including 112 rabbits. 

This is costing an estimated £26,000 a week to private boarders for the temporary care for hundreds of rescued animals - including dogs, cats, rabbits, small furry animals, exotic pets, birds and farm animals - as its 59 rehoming centres are “full to bursting”. 

The shocking new statistics come as the RSPCA’s annual rehoming campaign - Adoptober - continues to shine a light on the work of the charity's animal centres, and the rescue pets looking for a second chance of happiness.  

The charity believes the answer to this is to recruit volunteer animal fosterers to care for some of the unwanted animals waiting to be helped.

Animal rescue officer Liz Braidley from South Yorkshire estimates she has fostered more than 500 bunnies in total over her 15 year career with the charity - and has looked after 76 just this year.

Liz said: “I would say to anyone thinking of getting involved, fostering is hugely rewarding.

“Especially where an animal has been kept in unsuitable conditions and you can then give them the love and attention they need.

“I’ve had rabbits that have never been on grass before and when they come here they blossom, binkying on the ground and enjoying life.

“Some fosters have been really special - I’ve hand reared tiny babies found on an industrial estate with no mum and I took care of some giant rabbits just this year.

“No experience of fostering is the same - the rabbits have such different personalities so it’s always varied.”

The RSPCA sometimes has to resort to private boarding where demand for space outstrips what centres and branches can offer and this can be costly - but fosterers can help by caring for animals on a temporary basis, supported by the RSPCA, until they find their forever homes.

Liz added: “It really helps you to assess them and know which type of home they need which is great, although it can be hard saying goodbye it’s nice to know they are going to their forever home.”

The animal welfare charity has 14 national rehoming centres across England and Wales, with a further 45 centres run by RSPCA branches, which are separate charities in their own right. Collectively, the centres rehomed an incredible 26,945 animals last year, however:

  • The number of animals rehomed is down - by 8% compared to 2020, and by a whopping 31% compared to 2019.

  • As rehoming slows, the average length of stay for an animal in RSPCA care* also increased; for dogs by 9.4% - from 85 days in 2020 to 93 days in 2021 - and for rabbits - from 104 in 2020 to 117 in 2021, an increase of 12.5%. 

  • Even more people are seeking to rehome or give up their pets - the charity’s Giving up a Pet advice page has seen page views surge by 42% already this year, compared to the whole of last year*.

The RSPCA currently has 350 foster carers registered, with even more supporting the 145-strong network of RSPCA branches - but the charity urgently needs more, as these problems mount. 

Many people may struggle to commit to 10-20 years with an animal but fostering can be a temporary flexible solution to care for an animal for a set amount of time - to help ease the burden for the RSPCA. 

Brian Reeves, head of volunteering at the RSPCA, said: “We are struggling. Our centres are full to bursting at the moment which means we’re having to use vital charity funds to pay for animals to be cared for with private boarders, and have a long waiting list of animals waiting to come into our centres where they can start their search for a new home. 

“We are in the middle of an animal crisis and we can only see it getting worse over the winter months as the cost of living crisis bites. It’s absolutely vital that we free up as much space in RSPCA centres now, so we’ve got room for animal victims of neglect and cruelty we rescued in the coming weeks and months - and more fosterers is going to be crucial in achieving that. 

“Getting pets into loving foster homes - especially ahead of the winter months - will be a lifeline to our frontline officers and the animals in danger we need to rescue.”

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.

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