Pet welfare groups in Malaysia and Singapore have warned consumers against buying rabbits to mark the lunar new year, fearing a plethora of stray animals will follow.
High demand for small mammals is expected as January 22nd marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit. Mohideen Abdul Kader, president of the Penang Consumers Association in Malaysia, said it was unavoidable considering “the belief that it will bring good luck.”
“However, as with other past zodiacal hype, many rabbits will be left to fend for themselves once the novelty wears off,” he said.
The Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told local media that it receives around 60 reports of abandonment annually, despite the fact that failure to care for pets is a criminal offense in the country, which carries a fine of up to $100,000, as well as a possible prison sentence of three years.
House Rabbit Society Singapore, according to its president Betty Tan, said it had received 21 rabbits since early December and usually received more “delivery requests” during festive seasons.
“This upcoming Year of the Rabbit will be a challenging year for rabbit rescue groups as we anticipate more delivery cases as a result of the push. [buying] rabbits,” he said. The society urged people to understand commitment before making it.
According to RSPCA Australia, there is a misconception that rabbits are the “easy” first pets to keep when in fact they have “specific needs” and have a lifespan of up to 12 years.
“Despite their popularity, rabbits are among the most neglected animals humans have ever domesticated, impervious to the suffering that domestication often entails,” Kader said.
He suggested that people opt for a toy rabbit as an alternative this lunar new year.