PETS AND THEIR PEOPLE: HOW COULD THEY? Cruel owners let their rabbit starve to death in this squalid hutch.
A PET rabbit lies dead in his filthy, ramshackle hutch after weeks without food.
This appalling sight is becoming more and more common as new figures show bunnies are the most neglected of all pets.
Rabbits are the third most popular pet behind cats and dogs, but hundreds end up caged and forgotten at the bottom of the garden once their owners get fed up with them.
Becky Hawkes, of the RSPCA, said: "Rabbits seem to be the innocent victims of our throw-away culture.
"They are bought on a whim for children and adults alike but once people grow tired of them - or find out how big they can get - they're forced to live in tragic isolation."
The dead rabbit, above, was found at Alan and Leanne Powis's home in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. Another discovered nearby had soiled, matted fur and stank of faeces. Neither had been fed or watered.
Amazingly their foul-smelling hutch had been just 10ft from the living room window.
The Powis's admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the rabbit. They were banned from keeping animals for 20 years and sentenced to a 12-month community order. The rescued male was rehomed.
But worried RSPCA chiefs think the case is just the tip of the iceberg.
Last year, the charity received 8,227 calls about neglected rabbits leading to 108 convictions of cruelty.
And in February, 21 rabbits were heartlessly dumped in box and left in a field in Bangor, North Wales.
Becky Hawkes added: "There are more than a thousand rabbits out there waiting to find new homes.
"But there is also a waiting list for unwanted rabbits to be rehomed. It's just a conveyer belt of misery."
KEEP 'EM HOPPY
1RABBITS love company. A neutered male and female from the same litter are best.
2GIVE them lots of space - a hutch at least 5ft x 2ft x 2ft with a big run.
3BEDDING needs removing every day and the whole hutch cleaned regularly.
4WATCH for signs of distress. Rabbits are easy prey but can't cry for help.
5THEY need to be vaccinated every six months against myxomatosis.