Marshall, K., Wolford, H., Martin, L. 2017. Creatively meeting the standards – taking rabbit housing to the next level. Animal Technology and Welfare 16(3), 226-228.
The 8th Edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals clarified its language regarding housing social species, specifying that, “Single housing of social species should be the exception…”. This is a challenge for many institutions in the United States, as often budgets for new housing need to be planned far in advance. Further, while rabbits are social by nature, not all rabbits engage in a positive and mutually beneficial manner with conspecifics, resulting in the need to be creative when ensuring their social needs are being met. Our facility has implemented multiple solutions to this challenge through the use of technology, secure play space (social pens) and modification to current equipment (connecting cages with tunnels). These solutions have allowed us to meet the requirements set forth in the new Guide in a resource effective and environmentally friendly manner while minimising disruptions to the rabbits. Establishing social groups in a spacious environment, while monitoring animals closely, can be a good first step in seeing which animals have an affinity towards others. Once observed, those animals can be housed in a tunnelled cage or can remain in a large group.