My rabbit is a great friend of mine, and I adore taking her on walks at the park.
When we go out, I am always worried that she will make a run for the brush at the park, and I’ll lose her.
Yet, I also worry about using a harness and lead on a rabbit. Is it cruel?
Many pro-animal activists frown on the practice of fitting a harness to a bunny. It is said to be cruel as it’s not natural.
Yet, the alternative is having a loose bunny that may become scared and then scamper off.
When speaking with bunny experts, it becomes clear that keeping a rabbit harness on your rabbit is not cruel. They are safe to use on rabbits and make sure they stay out of harm’s way when outside.
The alternative is to lose your rabbit and possibly have it get run over by a car or eaten by a dog or other predator.
Domestic rabbits have been bred to be taken care of by humans. They don’t know about life on their own in the world, so a harness keeps them safe.
Is a Harness Cruel for Rabbits?
A harness is a means to keep your rabbit from running away.
It is also used to help your rabbit walk about and get exercise. A harness is not natural, which is why many believe it is cruel.
To evaluate whether a harness is actually cruel for rabbits we need to consider what would constitute cruelty to a rabbit.
A cruel device that is fitted to a rabbit would:
Be Uncomfortable to the Rabbit
When a rabbit feels uncomfortable in a harness, it would pinch the rabbit and restrict its ability to move or breathe.
If a rabbit is fitted with a harness that’s too small, it could rub them.
A harness may also rub their fur, and long-furred rabbits may feel pinching and hair-pulling.
If the harness is too heavy or too big for the rabbit, it can also make them uncomfortable.
Cause Pain When Used
When a harness pinches a rabbit, it can cause them substantial pain.
Eventually, the harness can even rub through their skin, leading to wounds, infection, and eventually death.
Restrict the Rabbit’s Movement
If the rabbit has difficulty walking because of the device or harness, it is cruel to them.
A rabbit has a particular range of motion, and a harness that restricts its movement may lead to muscle malformations.
Imagine walking with someone strapping your elbows to your knees. It wouldn’t be comfortable, and eventually, you may even fall.
The same applies to a harness that prevents the rabbit from having free movement.
Never ever tie a rabbit lead to anything while fixed to the rabbit’s harness. When your rabbit panics, they will bounce about.
And if they are tied to a firm object, your rabbit will break their own spine.
Endanger the Rabbit’s Life
If your rabbit chokes in their harness or it pinches them so tightly that they may end up damaging their fragile spine, the harness is cruel.
Cause the Rabbit Stress
When a rabbit is in pain, feels overly restricted, and is being abused by the action of the harness, it can lead to stress for them.
A stressed rabbit can have an immune response and become sick.
Pros and Cons of a Rabbit Harness
There are many pros and cons to using a rabbit harness.
It is not always easy to decide whether the harness is cruel or not, but a look at the pros and cons can help with the final verdict.
Pros to Rabbit Harnesses
- Keeps the rabbit from running away
- Prevents the rabbit from going where they’re not supposed to
- Allows for the rabbit to be taken to public places such as parks
- Gives the handler more control over the rabbit
- Can be used to teach the rabbit to walk close to the handler
Cons to Rabbit Harnesses
- Can hurt the rabbit
- May cause the rabbit to panic and harm themselves trying to get free
- Removes the rabbit’s ability to choose where they go
- Incorrect fitment may negatively influence the rabbit
- Hard handling can lead to permanent spinal damage to the rabbit
Why Rabbit Owners Use Rabbit Harnesses
In today’s busy world, it is increasingly difficult to find a safe space where your rabbit can romp around and binkie when they’re happy.
Socializing with other rabbits when the rabbit is kept as an only fur-child is necessary to keep your rabbit safe and healthy.
A harness allows you to take your rabbit to a place where they can play without risking their lives to get there.
By fitting a quality harness to your rabbit, you make it easier to put your bunny in your vehicle if you’re driving somewhere.
Since you can take your rabbit outside when they have a harness and lead fitted, it means your rabbit can experience fresh grass under their feet.
This may be unusual to rabbits that have lived their whole life in a small apartment.
Rabbits can enjoy much more freedom and space in cities when they can go outside with a harness fitted.
Some rabbit owners insist that the harness helps them communicate with their rabbits and ask them to do something.
Since the rabbit harness, if fitted correctly and used correctly, is most beneficial to your rabbit, it isn’t cruel.
Which Rabbit Harness to Choose
There are different harness designs to choose from too. When it comes to your precious pet rabbit, only the best will do.
Choosing a figure-eight harness will only traumatize your rabbit and lead to serious neck and spine damage.
The best rabbit harness is made from solid supportive panels and fits the rabbit like a little vest. The lead attaches to a supported D-ring on the rabbit’s back.
Alternative to this is a strap harness that looks a bit like a figure 8.
This kind of harness doesn’t support the rabbit’s chest and spine, and when the lead is forcefully pulled, it can severely pinch the rabbit’s neck and spine.
How to Ensure Your Rabbit Harness Isn’t Cruel
One of the easiest ways in which a rabbit harness can harm the rabbit is if it’s not fitted correctly.
To fit your rabbit harness correctly and humanely, make sure to:
Measure Your Rabbit
Never rely on the breed of your rabbit as no two rabbits are exactly the same size.
Work according to the manufacturer’s size guide when buying your rabbit harness.
Fit the Harness Correctly
A rabbit harness should fit snugly, but you should be able to slide two fingers between the different parts of the harness and your rabbit’s body.
This ensures your rabbit can breathe and move comfortably.
Choose a Harness That’s Safety Conscious
Your rabbit’s harness needs to be safe from hooking.
You don’t want your rabbit wandering around in their harness, only to hook on something and pull stuff down onto them.
Measure Your Lead
The lead your harness works off needs to be long enough to let your rabbit have some freedom, without the lead tangling around objects.
A good indication of length is to have a rabbit lead that’s 1.5 times your length.
This will allow your rabbit to have freedom while retaining your ability to control your rabbit when necessary.
Time Your Rabbit Harness Use
Rabbits aren’t made to be restricted for long periods of time as it can easily stress them out.
So you should take care to limit the amount of time your rabbit is in their harness.
The longer your rabbit is in its harness, the bigger the risk of rubbing, pain, and stress.
When you aren’t walking with your rabbit, you can rather use a smaller size rabbit cage to transport your rabbit in.
Operating Your Rabbit Harness to Ensure Anti-Cruelty
Your rabbit harness is only as gentle as you are. If you are going to pull viciously on the lead, you can and will hurt your rabbit.
Unlike a dog lead that’s designed to pull a dog closer to your body or discipline unruly behavior, a rabbit lead is better suited to keeping the rabbit from running off.
This means you should hold the lead but never pull it forcefully.
If you want to pick your rabbit up, never use the rabbit harness’ straps or the lead.
Your rabbit must always be picked up in a supported manner. The harness is not there to lift the rabbit by.
Some FAQs about Rabbit Harness
Is it cruel to put a harness on a rabbit?
When the harness is forcefully applied, a harness can be cruel. A harness is only as gentle as the hands controlling the lead.
Can I harness my rabbit?
Yes, you can harness your rabbit with a rabbit-appropriate harness and lead. Make sure you fit the harness correctly to avoid hurting the rabbit.
Can rabbits be trained like dogs?
Rabbits are highly intelligent. It is possible to train your rabbit to work at liberty with you in enclosed areas.
This means you can teach your rabbit to do anything if you put in the time and effort.
Why should I take my rabbit for walks?
Rabbits can quickly gain weight, and if their weight is out of control, their joints won’t last.
Taking your rabbit for regular walks in your neighborhood can really help reduce your rabbit’s weight load.
Can my rabbit bond with me while harnessed?
Your rabbit is quite used to seeing you. Whether you are riding, playing with, or just spending time with them, you should fit a harness to your rabbit to make handling them easier.
The Final Lead
Rabbits are social creatures, and I found they love being out and about. Some rabbits even learn to appreciate a car ride.
For the sake of safety, it is always advised to harness your rabbit when you are out in public.
By making sure your rabbit’s harness fits them comfortably, you can begin to bond with your rabbit.
Happy leading and bonding with your rabbit.
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