Pets at Home bans rabbit sales over Easter

Easter bunny sales have been banned by pet shop chains to stop “impulse” rabbit purchases.

Pets at Home is pausing the sale and adoption of the animals at all of its 457 stores nationwide over the Easter weekend and laying on free workshops to educate families on responsible pet ownership.

The retailer, the largest pet shop in the country, said its move was to put a halt to Britons flocking to join the Easter celebrations by buying a rabbit they cannot properly care for.

Jollyes, another pet chain, has followed suit at its 84 stores and warned the public: “A rabbit is for life not just for Easter.”

Last year, the RSPCA, the animal rescue charity, warned that the number of neglected rabbits was growing week on week, to 194 in 2021, despite those coming forward to offer re-homing locations falling by 40 per cent.

‘Rabbits have complex needs’

Karlien Heyrman, head of pets at Pets at Home, said: “We’ve paused the sale of rabbits over the Easter weekend for a number of years.

“It’s one important step we take to help play our part in reducing impulse decisions over the period and promoting responsible pet ownership… Rabbits in particular can have more complex needs, including specific dietary and environmental requirements, and our pet care advisors are trained to help owners understand these.

“We want to help as many pets into caring families as possible so we can do more to help owners make the right choice for them, the better.”

The ban has been in place for several years and the shop has also previously run a voucher scheme with Action For Rabbits, a charity, to make families mull over their decisions for longer because “all the noise and excitement can result in pets getting stressed” at Easter.

‘Rabbits can live up to 15 years’

Phil Turner-Naylor, from Jollyes, said “rabbits won’t be available for sale during the Easter period”, adding: “They can live up to 15 years which is a huge commitment.”

While Easter bunnies are not part of the Bible or the traditional resurrection story of Jesus, they have grown in popularity as the festival has become commercialized in recent years.

It comes as Easter traditions are changing with the times, with the National Trust rolling out vegan eggs for the first time this year on its popular Easter hunts at grand homes and gardens, following calls from families for more diverse options.

The charity’s various Easter hunts and trails around the country are advertising “chocolate or vegan and Free From eggs” as prizes, with the latter being dairy-free and gluten-free.

The National Trust told The Telegraph: “This year there is a choice between a dairy chocolate egg and a vegan and Free From chocolate egg (suitable for people with milk, egg, gluten, peanut and tree nut allergies).

“We want our Easter egg trails to be for everyone and we recognize that there is a growing demand to provide food with dietary and allergen requirements.”

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