Assessing Pet Rabbit Welfare Based on General Discussion on Human-Animal Relationship
Pets are popular worldwide, and more than half of human population keep pets. Cats and dogs have the highest percentage of being kept in households, and the population of rabbits is about one-tenth of cats or dogs. Humans’ love for pets can be dated back to Holocene when humans started to domesticate animals. With the intensification of the relationship, domestic animals become pets shaped by humans. Pets are kept by human owners because of several proven health benefits and, most of all, humans’ affection. Humans show affection and dominance to pets, and both have a direct link with the making of pets. Affection cannot be separated from dominance, and it is the reason for anthropomorphism, a tendency to attribute humans’ mental states such as feelings, motivations and belief to nonhuman companions. Anthropomorphism contributes to human affection for young pets and drives humans to keep pets, but it may cause poor animal welfare. The core concept of animal welfare is the “five freedoms”, including diets, housing, health, companionship and behavior. Good animal welfare in organic farms is related to ecological sustainability. The concept of five freedoms provides valuable references for a guideline for pet animal welfare. Despite the fact that rabbits are the third popular pets in the U.K., the status of pet rabbit welfare is not ideal. Inappropriate diets and housing, low percentage of insurance and vaccinium, attempt to change rabbits’ natural behavior and insufficient research conducted in the area result in poor welfare status. Owners may improve rabbits’ welfare out of affection and establish dominance to improve welfare.