Cruelty to animals – what to do?

Cruelty to animals – what to do?

Have you observed a bad rabbit keeping? What can you do about it?

We receive many inquiries about observed rabbit suffering, with this guide we would like to give tips on how to proceed in such cases.

Don’t look away: Act!

No matter where an animal needs help – do not look away, because it cannot help itself, but is left to its fate. Look and act! That is sometimes unpleasant and time-consuming, needs much-staying power and commitment, but it is worthwhile itself to remain at it.

Clarify the situation, observe grievances

First of all, it is important to clarify what grievances exist. On the one hand, it is about which are the main problems or what you want to complain about (the clearer you think about this beforehand, the more convincing and clearer you will be afterward), on the other hand, it is also about which options for the action you have.

Abuses, with which authorities intervene (veterinary office, police)

The animals are not supplied daily with food and water and/or receive no water and/or only sporadic food.

  • Dignity-rabbits the animals are not cared for, sit in their own dirt, are dirty and neglected.
  • Do the animals have injuries, heavy soiling in their fur or other signs of disease? Are sick animals treated by veterinarians? Is diarrhea or any other sign of illness visible?
  • Does the rabbit have so much space that it can at least make a hopper? Is a barn completely overpopulated or are the rabbits kept in unsuitable containers? Legal minimum dimensions
  • The animals are abused or injured.
  • The rabbits are standing in any dark room without light and with exhaust pollution or other hazards.
  • Large numbers of animals are kept and neglected (Animal Hoarding).
  • Other laws are violated (e.g. sale of animals (income) without registering with the tax office).

Grievances that are just as bad but often legally difficult to enforce

Rabbit-type-appropriate attitude The rabbits live in single attitude (only some veterinarians undertake something here).

  • The rabbits have some space, but no proper outlet.
  • The rabbits are regularly fed but obviously completely unhealthy (only dry fodder, only grain, nothing fresh, potato peels etc.).
  • Posture on grids without bedding
  • Housing without furniture/occupational material

Problems of public interest (Press)

• Animal Hoarding Cases
• Public facilities such as zoos, pet shops, small animal zoos, shops, kindergartens, schools, etc.
• Facilities belonging to an animal protection association (e.g. animal shelters)

Grievances that are less “bad” but should still be addressed

• Joie de vivre rabbit Not much but at least some space
• Poor posture, e.g. drinking bottles, poor control of animals, etc.
• Unsuitable/unhealthy feeding
• …

Legislative excerpts

Different laws can be used when an animal needs help. Whoever keeps cares for or has to care for an animal,

  1. Shall provide the animal with adequate food, care, and housing in accordance with its species and needs,
  2. Shall not restrict the animal’s ability to move in a manner that causes it pain or avoidable suffering or harm,
  3. Have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide the animal with adequate nutrition, care, and housing.
    A prison sentence of up to three years or a fine shall be imposed on anyone who
  4. Kills a vertebrate for no reasonable reason; or
  5. A vertebrate animal (a) Significant pain or suffering resulting from crudeness; or (b) Causes significant and prolonged or repeated pain or suffering.
  6. Anyone who intentionally or negligently
    1. causes considerable pain, suffering or damage to a vertebrate animal which he keeps, cares for or has to care for without reasonable cause.
      For animals in pet shops and with breeders a certificate of competence must be present.
      Also, many other facts are clarified in the law, e.g. the killing or the sale of animals without permission. The law also stipulates that animals that are tortured may be taken away from their owners.
      Many veterinary offices (not all) orient themselves at the leaflets of the TVT (veterinary association for animal protection) with attitude controls.
      Since 2014, rabbits have been included in the Animal Welfare Ordinance, which applies to all fattening, breeding and slaughter rabbits. These requirements can also be applied to domestic animals. You can find detailed information here.

Instantaneous action required?

In some cases, there is an imminent danger that requires immediate action, e.g. in the case of:

  • Animals with severe pain
  • Severely ill animals
  • Animals that are stuck somewhere and can’t free themselves
  • Animals in danger of death
  • Animals that are e.g. left alone in a car during summer temperatures

In these cases, it is best to call the police immediately and tell those on the phone that you want to intervene. Of course, this is only necessary if the owner is unreasonable or absent. If it is possible to intervene inconspicuously (e.g. to free an animal that is stuck) this can often be avoided.

Documentation, feeding, and care

Especially when it comes to abuses where it is questionable whether a consultation is sufficient to improve the situation of the rabbits, a good documentation of the husbandry conditions is important. Suitable for this are photos (often inconspicuously with Smartphone possible), the observation of the supply with the following exact description, veterinary appraisal (e.g. if one acquired an animal from this attitude) and witnesses. It is advisable to document the keeping over a longer period of time, this material can be helpful later with authority courses (police, veterinary office). Usually, it makes sense to document the situation before the first conversation, as you can then often make it even more inconspicuous.


Many owners act out of pure ignorance contrary to animal welfare or to the detriment of the animals. Therefore it is very important to give the owner the possibility to inform himself. Suitable for this is the insertion or handing in of flyers and other information or a harmless conversation.

Looking for the conversation

Rabbits information material can also be overlooked or simply not read, because there is little interest or the owner thinks that he already knows well and does everything for his animal. Therefore it is very important to address grievances openly and to clarify what could be improved.

Tips for as fruitful a conversation as possible:

  • First of all, don’t make any accusations, stay objective and calm.
  • Describe the main problems and not the details, which may not be ideal.
  • Also, say if something positive is noticed (e.g. if the keeping is good, but the animal is ill or if the animal is well cared for, but has little space)
  • Try to put yourself in the position of the owner and adapt the argumentation to it (e.g. if he simply knows too little and actually wants the best for his animal). Or if he keeps the animals for meat production (then it doesn’t make sense to argue against it but one should concentrate on the essentials so that the animals have it good at least until death, otherwise one is only labeled as a fanatical animal protector and achieves nothing for the animals).)
  • With “all or nothing” you can rarely achieve something, try to convince at least for smaller changes and change something in the small that is often better than nothing at all.
  • Always try to provide the critic with a suggestion for improvement, so that it is easy to understand what you want from the owner.
  • Offer your help and support.
  • Invite the owner to look at your own rabbit keeping.
  • Describe the advantages for the keeper (e.g. you don’t have to clean as often in large enclosures, if the animals are in a frail run on the meadow a lot, species-appropriate food saves animal species costs, happy rabbits make the keeper happy and animals with a lot of space are more interesting to watch and also more exciting for children, children often have fun to build parcours etc.).
  • Offer animal tax
  • Offer the owner to find a good place or to take in the animals. Some owners are no longer interested in the animals and are happy when they are gone. With such keepers, there is also usually no interest to improve the keeping conditions.

Authorities (veterinary office, police…)

If the attitude shows not only small defects, but fundamental defects, but the owner is not ready for any improvement, then the way to the authorities is inevitable. It is important to present and prove the situation clearly and not too digressing (witnesses, photos, reports…). Describe the case in an absolutely objective and calm manner, without exaggeration, and clearly state the grievances. Keep the data of the owner (name, address etc.) and the observations (date, time, witnesses etc.) ready. It can be advantageous to submit a report in writing, as facts are often overlooked or misrepresented during the oral examination.

First contact person is the local veterinary office (Google helps further), their one can call and describe the case. Photos etc. can be sent or brought personally. Report the case and ask how to proceed. Write down the file number and the responsible clerk so that you can ask afterward. If you are persistent, ask again and again and check whether something has changed or whether everything has remained the same. If the Veterinary Office does not take action, you should call them, again and again, to ask when something is being done, to ask them why nothing has been done and to ask them not to do anything about it.

If the veterinary office does not become active, the police are the next contact point. In contrast to the veterinary office, the police must act and check the attitude. If you make a complaint because of offense against the animal protection law, they describe clearly and objectively the situation. Write down also here the file reference.


In some cases it is important for the observer to remain anonymous, e.g. when it comes to people on whom he is dependent (superiors, etc.) or with whom he wants to maintain a good relationship (neighbors, colleagues). In these cases, it is possible to anonymously post information material, give a hint to the veterinary office or report to the police. However, anonymous reports to the authorities are sometimes less successful. A further possibility is it to ask an outside standing person (e.g. acquaintance, friends, Tierschtzer, rabbit owner) to speak with that or to give up an announcement and/or to inform the veterinary office. If it concerns thereby a friendship, that is questionable, because a true friendship is probably hardly possible, if the other cannot be helped, accepts no support and assistance and torments its animal deliberately…

Local animal welfare associations

Depending on the association, sometimes a reference to the local animal shelter or local associations can help, they often know how to proceed or what to do. There are however also associations, with which this runs into the void or nobody worries about it. Important: Animal protection associations do not have the right to enter properties and to give editions, this can only authority. Animal protection associations can function only in such a way, like a private person.

Many associations, which use themselves for rabbits, have locally coworkers, who can become supporting active with cases with rabbits. It is worthwhile itself to inquire.


If the owner, the facility (shop, animal shelter, zoo, etc.) is in the public eye, the press is a quite effective means. The local press is the first choice because larger newspapers are rarely interested in local cases. With local newspapers you can usually send mails or letters, call and often come by personally. Photos that you can print are an advantage. This is always worth a try!

Quote rabbits online campaigns

Via platforms, forums, Facebook or pages like, you can often quickly encourage many like-minded people to do something about animal suffering. Online campaigns gain weight if as many people as a possible sign, send an email or are involved. Such calls are of course not useful to get the neighbor rabbit out of the cage, but only for cases that are interesting for the public.

Large organizations

There are organizations that can take action in the event of grievances and can also do something effective for the press. This can be useful, for example, if an animal hoarding case is not resolved by the local authorities because they do not know where to put the animals or simply because no one is active. Also in cases with many animals or facilities that are in the public eye, such an organization can often help. Known are e.g. the German animal protection office (one finds the registration form on their homepage) and PETA. These organizations should be informed only if all other possibilities are exhausted.

Rabbit rescue to last…

Do not give up, only if you persist, you can achieve something in such cases. Often you have to go through a lot of contact points, have a lot of conversations and go to a lot of trouble, but in the end, it is always worth it, the animals thank you for it.