Submitted by Steve on 11:48, 24th Sep, 2021 | 0

Last Tuesday, Guernsey Animal Aid and the GSPCA met with the States Veterinary Office and Deputy Al Brouard,  to discuss concerns and suggestions in regards the Animal Welfare Laws in Guernsey.

The current Guernsey Animal Welfare Ordinance 2012 demands an exceptionally high burden of proof, and securing a prosecution is very rare.

By law, the States Veterinary Officers must give owners a 24-hour notice period, before their office can go and investigate a welfare case, which means that evidence is almost impossible to collect.

If a case is deemed severe enough to be investigated with the intention of prosecution, evidence will be gathered by the welfare organisations and the States Veterinary Officers, and then passed on to the Police and Law Officers, to look at proceeding to a prosecution case.  Unfortunately, in most cases, this is where the case ends, due to insufficient evidence or it not being in the public interest to proceed.

During 2020, Guernsey Animal Aid and GSPCA undertook hundreds of welfare checks, following complaints from the public, and disturbingly despite some very distressing cases, just one prosecution and two cautions were made during that period.

Both charities have seen a huge increase in small animals not being cared for, and are currently focusing on rabbits in particular.  They are amongst the most neglected and easily obtainable pets, and the current law gives them very little protection against neglect and abuse. 

Sue Vidamour, founder and Manager of Guernsey Animal Aid said “We are saddened and frustrated at the lack of prosecutions in respect of animal abuse and neglect.”

 “Last year Guernsey Animal  Aid removed over 100 rabbits and guinea pigs from a property, as the owner was moving and couldn’t take them.”

“They were living in tiny hutches and the majority of them had never seen the light of day. The ones that were lucky enough to leave their hutches, were only out for a short period of time, to be put on a show table.  There was no time spent outside, just being rabbits. ”

“Although a small number of them were rehomed, the majority of them were euthanized.  This went against everything that we stand for and believe in, but in agreement with the States Vet, we had no other options.”

“It was utterly heartbreaking but there were insufficient laws to protect these poor helpless animals.  They died as a direct result of irresponsible breeding.”

“We are also aware of rabbits that are being bred purely for the entertainment of children.”

“Their small hutches are left open so that children can go and get the young rabbits out whenever they want, without appropriate adult supervision, and as a consequence they’re often manhandled and dropped.”

“Although this case was recently followed up by The States Veterinary Officer, and advice has been given to make changes, the rabbits are still there.” 

“We do wonder, would this be accepted if it were kittens or puppies in those small boxes?” 

“Rabbits were traditionally kept for meat but nowadays they are predominantly kept as pets and the old-fashioned methods of them living without companionship, in a hutch with no access to the outside world is no longer acceptable.”

Steve Byrne GSPCA Manager said “The GSPCA carry out hundreds of welfare checks every year, and thankfully the vast majority just require advice or guidance.  However, when there is a breach in the law, we work closely with the authorities to ensure we do all we can for the best interests of the animals that are suffering.”

“We have been involved with many potential prosecution cases, but we at the GSPCA really want to educate and prevent cruelty from happening in the first instance. On Tuesday, along with Guernsey Animal Aid, we met with the States Veterinary Office to discuss the current legislation, as both charities have serious concerns.”

“Both the GSPCA and Guernsey Animal Aid have seen large numbers of animals being neglected, and when our services are called for it is so upsetting to see animals being kept in unsuitable and cramped conditions, sometimes without the basic needs they require.”

“This year at the GSPCA, we had have helped many rabbits needing new homes.  They are often the forgotten pets, being left in small hutches with little company, and for a social animal that likes to jump and forage they really do deserve so much more.”

“The meeting with the States Veterinary Office and Guernsey Animal Aid really highlighted some issues we all face whilst working in animal welfare, from those animals with no microchip, to the codes and guidance within the law needing to be more comprehensive.”

“We discussed the sales of animals, licensing and stray animal issues, especially livestock which can be extremely dangerous, both to our teams and the general public and wildlife protection.”

“We all know we are going through some of the most difficult times with Brexit and Covid, but as animal welfare charities we are doing our best to ensure that animals are cared for and have the protections they deserve.”

“We know that around 80-90% of dogs and cats are microchipped, but both charities have huge issues when animals have no form of identification, and when it comes to proving who owns an animal this can cause issues with investigations when it comes to cruelty.”

Both Guernsey Animal Aid and the GSPCA believe pet owners should follow the internationally accepted standards of animal care, known as The Five Freedoms, to ensure that they meet the mental and physical needs of all animals under their care:

Freedom from hunger and thirst 

Freedom from discomfort 

Freedom from pain, injury, or disease 

Freedom to express normal behaviour

Freedom from fear and distress

Sue Vidamour, from Guernsey Animal Aid continued “As well as updating the current Animal Welfare Laws, specifically with regards to small animals, we should be looking to educate the general public on the appropriate care of, in this case rabbits.”

“Studies show that rabbits are highly social animals and value companionship almost as much as food.”

“Without the correct care and attention, especially from their own kind, rabbits can become depressed, which can then lead to aggressive behaviour.”

“Guernsey Animal Aid has four free roaming rabbits, which were originally serious welfare cases and impossible to rehome, and despite having plenty of space, they’re usually to be seen snuggling up together.”

“The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund recommends that your rabbit's hutch be large enough for “three hops” from end to end.”

“That means a minimum of six feet long by two feet high by two feet deep. A 6ft x 2ft x 2ft hutch will allow your rabbit to hop, stand up, stretch, and move around comfortably.”

“They should also have access to outside space to run, skip and hop freely.”

“A living space that is too small can affect a rabbits’ health, causing spine problems, muscle wastage and obesity.”

“We, at Guernsey Animal Aid, witnessed a rabbit break it’s back whilst doing a single binkie (hop) when freed from being confined in a shoe box sized enclosure for its whole life.  It was a terrible sight and will remain with us forever.”

“To keep rabbits as healthy as possible, ensure they get the correct nutrition, which is 85% unlimited hay or grass, 10% variety of leafy vegetables and herbs, and 5% (approximately an egg cup full) twice a day of quality pelleted food.”

“Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not “ideal first pets for children.”

“They’re ground dwelling, prey animals and can often act aggressively when picked up, which may result in a bite or scratch.” 

“They’re nervous by nature and it takes time, patience and a firm hold, which many children don’t have.”

“Neutering is also vital for a long and healthy life.  As it’s important for rabbits to live in pairs or groups, neutering allows them to do this.  It can also prevent life threatening health problems (especially in females) and of course, stops unwanted pregnancies.”

“The real pleasure of having rabbits is seeing them act like rabbits, watching them displaying their natural behaviours of running, jumping, digging and foraging, or simply grooming their partner.”

Both Guernsey Animal Aid and GSPCA agree that “rabbits really do need more than just a tiny hutch at the end of the garden, and we would love to see Guernsey show case the best rabbit care, and have the laws to protect them.”

Steve Byrne from GSPCA, continued “we have some amazing enclosures for our rabbits on our Bunny Hop Hill, and we have many rabbits in need of homes, but they need to be the right homes, with appropriate enclosures and those that can care for them and give them all that they need.”

Guernsey Animal Aid, Sue Vidamour advised that “as a direct result of recent welfare cases, we will be opening a Small Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre, at our premises in the Forest.  It will not only be a facility available to anyone needing to rehome their small pet, but also a safe haven for rabbits that have been neglected and abused.”

“Education will be key in this new venture, with help and advice to both current and potential small animal owners, on the physical and emotional needs of these wonderful pets.  GAA are looking to also  extend this education into educational settings, something that we’ve done in the past with good results.”

If anyone has any concerns of animals being neglected or just think an owner may need advice then please do not hesitate to contact Guernsey Animal Aid on 07781 150388 or GSPCA on 257261 who are here to do their best for the animals and community of Guernsey.

“We would love to know your feeling on microchipping and we have a survey which can be found by going to .”

To see more on Guernsey Animal Welfare Law and visit the GSPCA website please go to this link -

To contact the States Vet –

To visit Guernsey Animal Aids website –


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