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The Dangers of Harnesses and Leashes in Rabbits

We promote rabbits as companion animals who live indoors with the family and are afforded veterinary care when needed. We are against the exploitation of rabbits and of activities that are more for human enjoyment than for the rabbit's best interest. With this in mind, we do not support or promote the use of harnesses and leashes in rabbits. Unfortunately, in some cases, what's fun for an owner is not always fun or safe for a rabbit.

A rabbit's skeleton is very light (only a small percentage of its total body mass) and their bones can break relatively easily. Additionally, they have a keen eyesight and can easily and suddenly become frightened of something that you may not even notice. They are prey animals that need to feel capable of quick escape if necessary. A rabbit that is leashed or harnessed and suddenly bolts can sustain serious injury in the blink of an eye. The fear of the threat, coupled with the realization that they are restrained, is a recipe for disaster. How many of us haven't had a bun seemingly peaceful in our arms suddenly become a frantic, struggling bunny desperately wanting to escape? Buns can easily startle or be frightened and start frantically darting around in an effort to escape a threat, whether it’s real or perceived, often injuring themselves in the process. Even a bunny that has done well on a leash in the past could suddenly perceive something as a danger and struggle, run, or worse.

This is not a view we've come to lightly. Rather, it is one based on experiences and horror stories from bunny parents who, in many cases, swore their bun was fine on a leash. These same buns have ended up with leashes wrapped around necks, have had legs caught and broken in tangled leashes, suffered broken backs, escaped from harnesses and darted in front of cars, and even were attacked by dogs that appeared out of nowhere. One horror story involved a bun that got tangled in a leash, became frightened and had a heart attack.

While it *may* never happen, the nature of a bunny is such that the potential for injury on a leash is high. A safer option for bunnies is plenty of room inside a home for bunny 500's, safe items to jump and climb on and plenty of toys to play with.

Copyright © Orlando Rabbit Care and Adoptions, All Rights Reserved

Updated - 03.02.17

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