Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rabbitry Husbandry....thoughts on the good & bad

First off, the buns are all doing well! I've got several does bred and due in the next several weeks. The litters are all doing good as well :).

There has been a lot of talk in the rabbit world - on facebook, message boards, email groups, etc - over the last month or month and a half about the Six Bell Rabbits (Debe Bell) which were seized by Animal Control in Colorado.

At first, the report of the police & AC coming in without a search warrant and taking all 190+ rabbits was astonishing. But, when more pictures came out of the condition of at least some of the rabbits at this rabbitry, I can completely understand why AC took the rabbits. Now, I don't agree that the AC should've taken the rabbits like they did. If they were going to do something, they should have given a fine, told the rabbitry owner to clean up the situation and then followed up on it.

At first, I felt bad for Debe Bell, because from what I had heard it sounded like the AC came and took the rabbits without any cause or problem. But, in reality, there was cause for concern in the *AC's mind* by these pictures below.

These 4 pictures below were taken by the Jefferson County Sherriff's Office in Colorado.

Once I saw the above pictures, I was not surprised one bit that the AC would take the rabbits. Quite frankly the above pictures are disgusting. Sure, the rabbits themselves look healthy, but they will not remain healthy for very long in a cage like that. It'll cause all sorts of health problems.

Yet, there are still many, many rabbit breeders (show rabbit breeders) who are fully behind Six Bells Rabbitry and arguing around what these pictures show. In my opinion, these pictures show rabbits that have not had their cages cleaned or taken care of for a length of time....well over a week.

There are several facebook pages set-up either to support the Six Bell Rabbits or they were started because of this situation. I am not on any of these pages, but I happened to look over some of them.

One is called Save the Six Bell Rabbits

Another is called Show Rabbit Protection Society and there is also a blog for this FB page.

And the last one I found is called Rabbit Breeders United.

I've tossed around the idea of writing a blog post on this ever since the first news article surfaced about this. But, I hadn't felt like I should. On a rabbit board I'm on, some quotes were given from a couple of the above FB pages. I went to the pages, found the statements and thought I would share a couple of the quotes from the Show Rabbit Protection Society page. Once I saw these quotes, I felt I should post something on my blog about this situation.
"Yay, keep it up. You are deprogramming yourselves. And what else do we want? We want the rabbit to EAT poop. Rabbits eat their poop. Cecotropes. Remember? Defend the poop!! We want rabbits to poop, to sit in it, to eat it, to knock it around their cage and we never want the poop to stop! Defend the poop. A poopy cage is the number one sign of good rabbitry husbandry!!!!"
And another quote, 
"I think something is radically missing in the whole discussion of poop and Debe Bell's rabbits. People who want no poop, those who think there is too much poop. come on people, we raise rabbits right? What is a sign of serious emergency illness in rabbits? No poop. As rabbit breeders, we WANT poop, lots and lots of poop, 24 hours a day poop, because pooping rabbits are healthy rabbits? Remember everybody? Hello? Why is everyone suddenly acting like poop in a rabbit cage is a PROBLEM?"
I've been raising rabbits for almost 9 years now and I know what it takes. I know rabbits poop a lot. I know they can get the "string of pearls" when molting which will get stuck on the cage. I know if you leave hay in a corner of a cage the rabbit may insist on pooping and peeing on the hay, which clogs it up and doesn't let it fall through to the tray.

But, the rabbit NEVER has to have poopy cages, especially like the above pictures show. I've never had that in my rabbitry. Someone may be surprised by that. But, it is the truth. Why? Because I stay on top of keeping the barn and cages clean and free of poo. When it's not summer the trays get changed once a week (during the summer, they are changed every couple days), but the poop still does not pile up into the cage.

I highly disagree with the statement that "a poopy cage is the number one sign of good rabbitry husbandry." You don't need poop IN the cage with the rabbit for someone to know that the rabbit is pooping. All droppings should be in the tray BELOW the cage, not piled up in the cage. There is no way I want my rabbits to sit in their poop. That's just disgusting and totally unhealthy, in my opinion.

Any good rabbit breeder will know that it's unhealthy for a rabbit not to poop. They will die, if not treated soon & correctly, from GI Stasis. But, that's not what I'm talking about here. A pooping rabbit is a healthy rabbit. But, it does not need to e, and should not be, sitting in it's own feces. If there is proper rabbitry management, a rabbit never needs to have a pile of poo in it's cage.

A few "string of pearl" droppings hanging on the bottom of the cage wire is one thing. But, if it's maintained and those are brushed off every few days (or even once a week!), it will not build up, in my experience.

So, since today was barn cleaning day (it had been a week), I decided to take some pictures before cleaning the barn. Someone may be surprised by that. But, I thought it would help show that a dirty barn really doesn't have to be that bad.

I didn't take these pictures to say "see what I can do", but I took them to show that a rabbit barn does not have to have poop piled up into the cages after just one week between cleanings. It just doesn't have to happen.

This doe had a few "string of pearls" on her cage floor, but they were all hanging through to the bottom of the cage and she has no pile of poop in her cage.

See, how it hangs through! And there is still space left between the bottom of the cage and the tray (which is full, because it's been a week since cleaning).

This doe likes to poop in one corner of her cage, but there is still plenty of space between the tray and the bottom of the cage.

And even a doe with a litter of 7 babies. Their tray is full and ready to be dumped, but it's not built up so high that they have piles of droppings in their cage. That hay in the corner is just from the night before :).

And my retired does who have the solid bottom cages. It's been a week for them since their cage was cleaned as well.

And now the barn after cleaning is done :)!



Hendricks Hearth said...

Thank you, Qadoshyah! I feel the exact same way and it was great of you to post the before and after so people can see to believe. There is no reason why a rabbit should have to swim through its own manure if there is proper husbandry. And it is especially important that breeders who DO take good care of their animals aren't lumped in with those that clearly do not. Thanks again for taking the time to post this.

April said...

I love this post!

The Kings said...

Totally agree!!

Debbie said...

Nicely done Qadoshyah :) Great pictures and opinion. What I have written below,is my personal opinion and not ment to offend anyone at all. It is how I truly feel. I do not believe the "rabbit lady" (I forgot her name) was taking proper care of the rabbits as was shown in the pictures. To have poop that deep, it would probably take weeks of not cleaning to build up so high. I always put myself in an animals position.....and I would not like to stand in my own feces nor have a tall pile sitting in my bedroom next to me :) That said, out of over 100 plus rabbits, only a few cages were shown to be in very bad condition. I am still on her side as far as what they did do to her. (Meaning I do not feel they should have rushed in and just taken them without worse conditions than they proved to be) Even though a few cages were horrible (and I really hate how very nasty those were!!) the rabbits did look healthy and in good condition, except for the one really fuzzy one they showed matted up. Usually, people get a chance to change what is wrong by first receiving a warning. They are told what needs to change for the animals well being and what will happen if they don't make the correct changes.....sometimes several chances are given. If you watch the Animal Cop shows on TV, you will know what I mean. Then if the people do not comply, they take the animals and take them to court, fines, etc. To have her rabbits taken in the manner they were, was down right wrong and unexcusable in my opinion. And to have them also blow certain details way out of proportion only added to the way I feel. (Like telling us she was using 2 swamp coolers and then taking pictures of only a fan that you could clearly tell, had not been used in a long time!) Come on people, lets get real! I'm sure there are plenty of rabbits, horses, dogs, cats, etc sitting all over the world, that are in 100% worse conditions..... where the same or even different, organizations have seized them too and we never heard a word about them! Show us all the REALLY horrific ones so that maybe.....just maybe, the people who are really abusing animals on a MUCH higher level than that rabbit woman, would be exposed, fined, jailed, etc. Humiliate THOSE folks.... where everyone seeing it, will want to help and stand up for cases like want to get involved and actually help stop some abuse or at the very least, feel the ASPCA, law enforcement, PETA, etc are DOING THEIR JOBS!! Then HELP the lesser offenders on the minor cases. Don't throw them to the wolves....educate them, give them a chance to do it right. If they don't, fine...they had a chance and do what needs to be done. People would unite and actually help more animals because we would all be on the same page and feel like the system is working as it should. As it stands now, we are all on different one really understanding or should I say, "getting" what happened from this one case thrown out for all to see. It's now just gossip, minor abuse made out to be severe, overwhelmingly judged, a real joke......but no one is really laughing, are they? It is so sad that I find myself defending animal abuse over the actual people who are suppose to protect them. It would be different if I felt they were really protecting something as big as they claimed it to be.

BunnyGal said...

The cages shown in the photos of the 6 bell rabbitry are deplorable and unacceptable, period. I've said that from the day I first saw them. There's absolutely no excuse for a cage to get that way and it is not acceptable for a rabbit to live that way. I don’t know Debe and don’t know why things got that way. Perhaps she was dealing with some sort of true mental illness and was not aware of just how bad things were. It's either that, or she just didn't care. It wasn't about money, or the lack of, because it costs nothing to clean poop away and empty a pan. If she became physically unable to manage them all, then she could have and should have either asked for help from friends, family, other breeders, etc. or gotten rid of the rabbits. Anyone in their sound mind would not allow a rabbit to live that way and would rather give it away than let it live in squalor. The conditions as shown in the photos are that of long term neglect, absolutely not just a week as stated. I won’t pass judgment on Debe because I don’t know what might have caused her to allow these conditions to exist, but I certainly do not support her getting back any of the rabbits because she has proven she is incapable of providing proper care. Even if she had 100 rabbits in outstanding care and only 6 were living in conditions as shown in the photos, that's 6 lives that are 100% dependent on humans for care, that were being left to live in appalling conditions that are both physically and mentally damaging.

Annette said...

well written post. (athomepets)

Damn Yankee said...

Qadoshyah, I appreciate your thorough writing about the husbandry conditions of rabbitries and how it relates to the Bell Case. As a rabbit breeder in Colorado and as someone who has talked to Debe Bell about this case at length I am aware there are aspects of this case that have a lot more to do with a multitude of other factors beyond poop piles and husbandry but legal, zoning, due process, and search and seizure laws as well as the status of rabbits as livestock animals to name a few. As well, if this case generates a discussion about good husbandry practices versus poor ones, I am all for it, but what my comment is really about is your mentioning of the Rabbit Breeders United facebook page. I want to go on the record to say that although the Bell case did motivate me to start the page it is meant to be a page for all rabbit breeders worldwide and be open to all topics involving rabbit breeding, showing, production, and uses. I encourage anyone who is interested in an easy forum for rabbit breeders to communicate via fb to "LIKE" the page and join in on the posts and comments.

Jan said...

I'd like to know how 4 dirty cages out of 184 cages total makes seizure of all the animals justified. It's great that you all have so few rabbits and so much time that this never happens to you, but again, how does 4 dirty cages justify seizure of all her animals? This has happened to me in cages with litters, my rabbits typically have litters of 8-10, and it's darned near impossible not to have huge poop piles until I get them separated after weaning. Notice that one cage definitely did have a litter in it. So what say you all? Do we have to be perfect in order to be acceptable? Or can we accept that sometimes we get behind, we are human, after all, and stuff happens occasionally in 4 cages out of 184?

Jessica said...

Great post Qadoshyah. I know how fast and dirty rabbit cages can get. For the last couple years I was in the hobby, I raised American Fuzzy Lops. I still have 4 fuzzies as pets and I still battle with keeping their cages clean. My rabbits do not sit in poop. If their cages look dirty in between tray dumping, I clean the cage. I also think the condition of her cages took much longer then a week - possibly longer then a month. With that said, I don't agree with the way A/C handled the situation. Of course I also have dealt with similar issues (in fact, the lady I helped may have kept her rabbits in WORSE conditions before I started helping her). They searched (after getting a warrent), arrested her, months of court, and though she had to place 75% of her rabbits, none were ever taken by a/c. Sometimes there is a need for a/c to become involved, though they went about it in the wrong way.

Qadoshyah said...

The Show Rabbit Protection Society commented on another post on my blog in regards to this post. Their comment was:

"Really shouldn't take stuff out of context you know. You should either post the full quote page referencing what it was discussing or not open your mouth at all. Because partial quotes of the page, taken out of context, is a sign of real dishonesty and manipulation....Just an opinion, nothing more. You really should have mentioned it was part of a poop experiment, part of an ongoing study of rabbit waste by many breeders that you chose to not participate in. But again, you are not alone. Many people have used Debe Bell's case to imply that somehow they have superior knowledge to her 28 years. And you won't be the last."

And I replied with:

Thanks for commenting, Show Rabbit Protection Society.

From what I saw, I did not take anything out of context. I copied the whole status or comment that was on FB. I'm sorry if I did.

Just because someone has 28 years of rabbit raising experience doesn't mean they are the best source. I'm not saying Debe Bell is not a good source of information. While I know completely that there was a poop experiment which some breeders are doing, I didn't feel it necessary to mention. There's never a time where a rabbit needs to sit in their poop, have poopy cages, because it doesn't *have* to happen in a rabbitry.

Qadoshyah said...

Thanks everyone for leaving your thoughts! I enjoy reading them :).

@Maria (Damn Yankee) - Thanks for leaving a comment. I'm glad to hear your page is not only for the Debe Bell case. I do believe AC was in the wrong in taking all her rabbits like that, but I can see why they did, even though I don't agree with it.

@Jan - like I said in the post and above, the AC shouldn't have taken all the rabbits without any warning or without giving her time to clean up the situation. But, still, I find it hard to believe the poop could build up that fast. I've had litters of 8-12 in my rabbitry (quite common actually) and haven't ever seen a poop pile like those pictures. So, it just makes me question :).

@Jessica - I remember who you are talking about! I think that was handled in a better way than this situation. I'm glad you were able to help that breeder out some ;).

Qadoshyah said...

Show Rabbit Protection Society left another comment, which I did not publish, that talkled about how the AC could go into a clean, good looking barn and find numerous things wrong with it.

I completely understand that, because the AC has ridiculous standards. This post on my blog was just about rabbitry husbandry and what it takes to keep a clean barn. It was not about what the AC does, therefore the comment wasn't posted :).

Ashley said...

I completely agree! Those poor bunnies. :(

You do a fantastic job taking care of your rabbits!