The last 12 months have been unbelievably difficult and probably the worst time for rescues in living memory.
We all struggled through 2020 with the covid restrictions, and watched the reports of the massive surge in pet ownership. We all saw the coming disaster, we all knew what was going to happen, and none were surprised when it hit.
We've personally seen a huge surge in breeders giving up and wanting to surrender unsold litters and adult breeding stock. Numerous calls from owners who bought two boys or two girls, only to discover they had one of each when the litter of babies arrived. There has also been a drastic increase in reports of stray/dumped rabbits and rabbits being left behind in rental properties. We've also had many requests for help as owners have returned to work and don't have time anymore or the children aren't interested and don't do anything with them now.
We entered the year with rabbits being housed in 6ft hutches, even having to purchase additional hutches to provide emergency support.
This huge surge in surrender requests has been coupled with a drastic decrease in adoptions. We've only had 3 rabbits adopted this year! It's never been this low in our 8 years of running. Without rabbits leaving our care, we are unable to create space to help others. Our waiting list for rabbits has been closed since March and we've only been able to cater for emergencies on the rare occasions space has been available.
Every rescue I know has been drowning, regardless of species, and they are also experiencing a serious drought of adoptions. The situation with unwanted animals in the UK has gone beyond crisis point and sadly many are blaming the rescues for the lack of placements.
In addition to the crisis with unwanted pets and lack of adoptions, the cost of living crisis has hit us hard. Not only have we seen a significant drop in donations, monthly pledges, and sponsorships, our running costs have also drastically increased. We've been forced to eat into all our reserves and are very concerned about our long-term future. As the only specialist rescue in West Wales, Nibbles offers a vitally needed service. Our small team has years of combined experience in caring for rodents and rabbits and a genuine passion for their long-term welfare. We regularly carry out welfare reviews, keeping up to date with the latest research, and making positive changes when and where needed.
This year saw the removal of all hay racks from rabbit housing, along with a full diet review to help increase hay consumption. It has been a great success and all our buns now tuck into their fresh hay piles every morning.
We also changed our neutering policy for male guinea pigs, ensuring all males are neutered prior to adoption, rather than just neutering males arriving as singles. Although adult boar bonding is possible, a lot depends on personality and finding the right combination can be tricky without a large selection to choose from. By neutering as standard, our boars will be able to bond with females after a future bereavement, which is generally much easier. We also extended this policy to male chinchillas and degus later in the year for the same reasons.
Our adoption fees were also reviewed and increased this year. We haven't increased our adoption fees since 2017, however with rising costs we had no other alternative. All adoption fees are placed back into our vet fund and help towards the cost of neutering and vaccinations for animals coming into our care.
In late 2017, the decision was made to open a further patch of land to the rescue. The work in this area has been ongoing ever since and as the years dragged by has felt like we'd never get it finished. With huge thanks to The Pet Protection Trust we finally completed our building work, adding the last 8 rabbit units to the 'top end' of the rescue. This allowed us to, once again, become a hutch free rescue, with all of our buns in spaces no smaller than 8ftx4ft, with our largest pens being 10ftx6ft. It also opened up some additional placements allowing us to welcome some new arrivals. It's been a huge relief to get this work completed and marks an end to our Building a Brighter Future project.
This year we helped a total of: 64 animals
20 animals have been adopted
We are leaving the year with 59 animals in our care
Looking forward to 2023
We've struggled with appropriate housing for our smaller guests for quite some time. Our rodent cabin is only 10ft x 8ft and we are forced to compromise between helping as many animals as possible and providing adequate space for each animal in our care. With so many different species to cater for it is very difficult to meet all their needs. However, we feel that we need to do better for each species and are currently looking at ways in which we can ensure they all have a suitable space to call home during their stay.
Promoting High Welfare Standards
Our biggest goal for 2023 is to complete the advice section on our website, providing the public with accurate and up to date information for all species of rodents and rabbits. We are very passionate about promoting high welfare standards for these, forgotten about, animals and helping owners get the most out of their relationship with their small family members.
We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who's supported our work this year. You are the true heroes behind Nibbles, without you none of this would have been possible. We genuinely can't thank you enough for changing little lives for the better.