DEAR READERS: The British Veterinary Association, British Veterinary Zoological Society and British Small Animal Veterinary Association are campaigning to educate rabbit owners on the proper care of these animals. Rabbits are the third most popular pets in the U.K., and they are also rising in popularity in the U.S.
According to a 2019 report from British veterinary charity PDSA, 49% of rabbits in the U.K. live alone with no companionship. Since rabbits are highly social animals, these experts advise keeping at least two together -- either of the same sex, or neutered if of different sexes -- in large enclosures, and also including quality hay in their diets.
Companionship is extremely important for the health and welfare of pet rabbits. Traditionally, rabbits are prey animals that live in colonies in the wild for “safety in numbers.” This social instinct is still present in pet rabbits today. Evidence shows that pet rabbits greatly benefit from living with other pet rabbits, with companionship having a positive effect on their health, behavior, emotional well-being and regulation of body temperature.
I have long considered keeping lone rabbits in cages or hutches a hidden cruelty -- one that veterinary associations around the world, along with people who keep rabbits as pets, need to address. For more details, visit www.bva.co.uk/rabbit-housing.
DEAR DR. FOX: I respectfully disagree with your opinion that all coyote hunts are problematic and cruel, and should be banned.
When I was growing up on our farm in central Illinois, we did not have a problem with coyotes. However, the coyote population throughout Illinois has exploded. We used to have a fairly large outdoor cat population on the farm, but the coyotes have killed them all. They have also killed all the rabbits.
When I visit the farm now, I hear coyotes howling right outside the front of the house. When I walk my small dog at night, I keep her on a short leash and use a flashlight.
The problem is that there are no predators for the coyotes, so the population keeps expanding. My sister lives in a large suburb of Chicago called Arlington Heights, and she sees coyotes in broad daylight in her backyard and on the street. Hers is a highly populated residential area. Small dogs confined to backyards have been killed by coyotes.
Coyote pelts are worthless, so there is no incentive for hunters to kill them. I am an animal lover, but we have too many coyotes (and deer), so I am totally in favor of them being hunted to control further population growth. I care more about the safety of people’s pets than I do about coyotes. -- D.R., Lincoln, Nebraska
DEAR D.R.: I sympathize with your concerns, but do not agree with the killing of coyotes, since this does not help regulate their numbers.
Ironically, killing in one area will mean more coyote cubs being born in nearby areas, since there is then more food available for their mothers. They then subsequently recolonize those areas of temporary extermination.
State and federal agents have used traps, snares, denning, fishhooks, dogs, cyanide guns and poison bait for decades, but the coyotes have continued to colonize region after region, state after state.
You are witnessing evolution: These predators are adapting to conditions we humans have made favorable for them and their prey, including free-roaming cats (who should be indoors) and unattended dogs. Coyotes will also kill white-tailed deer fawns, the overabundance of which we humans have created for the hunting industry and by the virtual extermination of the wolf. Through competitive exclusion, wolf packs once limited the spread of coyotes.
For more details, read Dan Flores’ book, “Coyote America.” And for ways to avoid coyote conflicts and establish a more harmonious coexistence -- which will benefit us, since coyotes also consume small rodents that harbor Lyme and other tick-borne diseases -- visit projectcoyote.org.
DEFORESTATION SETS STAGE FOR ZOONOSES, PANDEMICS
Deforestation, whether deliberate or accidental, brings wild animals into closer contact with humans, where the animals can transmit zoonotic diseases (infectious diseases that spread from animals to humans), potentially setting the stage for a pandemic.
“The more we degrade and clear forest habitats, the more likely it is that we’re going to find ourselves in these situations where epidemics of infectious diseases occur,” said disease ecologist Andy MacDonald. (National Geographic, Nov. 22, 2019)
AVMA CONDEMNS DONKEY TRADE
The AVMA and the World Veterinary Association have condemned the global donkey trade, in which the animals are sold and slaughtered, sometimes cruelly, for hides or to make donkey-hide gelatin for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine.
A recent report by the Donkey Sanctuary linked the trade to criminal networks, abuse, biosecurity threats and economic burdens on families whose donkeys are stolen.
Read the full story at scientificamerican.com.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)