What is H.E.A.R.T.S.?

The Housing, Enrichment and Amenity for Rabbits: Technical Standard (H.E.A.R.T.S.) is a long overdue standard that is intended to level the playing field in the domestic rabbit accommodation industry. This new standard has been developed by Dunster House Ltd, and we hope to encourage other manufacturers of Rabbit Hutches to adopt it in the future.

It is aimed at discouraging retailers and manufacturers from creating rabbit housing that is nothing short of torturous in order to maximise profits, and instead to encourage them to work in conjunction with four of the five existing guidelines set by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (Section 9).
The five guidelines are:

(a) its need for a suitable environment,

(b) its need for a suitable diet,

(c) its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,

(d) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and

(e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

The only section that H.E.A.R.T.S. does not cover is the need for a suitable diet. It focuses on rabbit housing and getting the outdated, archaic and frankly abusive ‘hutches’ off of the market. H.E.A.R.T.S. is the accumulation of scientific research from appropriate field experts and, when no research existed, experiments conducted by ourselves to produce a defined standard to be complied with.

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H.E.A.R.T.S. holds rabbit housing to a far stricter standard than simply sizes to protect both retailers and consumers. In fact, it provides clear guidelines on 10 different features that all domestic rabbit accommodation must contain including fox proofing, rabbit entrapment, hygiene and chemical safety amongst others. Where there have previously been no tests; we have planned, and conducted, the experiments ourselves and providing the schematics for free so all retailers and manufacturers can test their own products to ensure they are actually suitable for rabbits. Find out more about the different categories by clicking here



Who is H.E.A.R.T.S. for?

H.E.A.R.T.S. is for manufacturers, retailers and consumers of domestic rabbit hutches. It is not intended to be followed verbatim for home-built applications as enclosures require testing to comply. However, for home builders of enclosures, lessons can be learnt to improve the designs. The H.E.A.R.T.S. research team at Dunster House has spent over 6 months collating different reports from scientific papers and experts in their field to create a single standard for rabbit accommodation. This Scientific research is Open Access, and completely free. By presenting the data in a clear, coherent way, H.E.A.R.T.S. is set to not only change the life of rabbits, but retailers too.
Retailers have previously been caught in a potential legal minefield between the existing RWAF guideline’s Retailer Charter minimum sizes of 5ft x 2ft and the actual recommended sizes of 6ft x 10ft. This means that in the event of litigation over sale of an inadequate 5ft x 2ft hutch the Retailer could claim Best Practice (having conformed to the Retailer Charter) but would also be likely liable due to selling a product that was Not Fit for Purpose (as it was too small by the RWAF-recommended minimum guidelines.) H.E.A.R.T.S. is not an arbitrary Standard but a scientific based one ensuring that a compliant product is not only complying with Best Practice but also Fit for Purpose.
We're giving it away, as our charitable Company owner cares about stopping cruelty to rabbits through clearly inadequate housing, and wants to prevent the sale of inadequate and unsafe pet accommodation by encouraging others to follow our lead.

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Manufacturers and Retailers

More often than not, you are the primary source of information regarding products to owners so you play a vital role in preventing rabbits from being neglected in accommodation that is far too small for them to lead happy lives. It’s important to never underestimate a pet owners love for their pet, in this case their rabbit. They want to know that what they are buying will keep their rabbits happy, healthy and – most importantly – safe from any attacks. A popular high street retailer recently had a review that mentioned a fox attack. Their response? They, like many other retailers who sell rabbit housing, stated that they are unable to guarantee their hutches are fox proof. By only selling H.E.A.R.T.S. compliant housing, you can declare yours as fox proof giving you a huge advantage on the competition.
So, what happens if you sell something that is not H.E.A.R.T.S. Compliant? At first, perhaps nothing. Except what you are selling could now be shown (due to the launch of H.E.A.R.T.S.) to be Not Fit for Purpose, leaving you open to the potential of negative feedback, costly returns and – in worst case scenarios – costly court cases where H.E.A.R.T.S. can be used to show that you did not use Best Practice. By selling H.E.A.R.T.S. Compliant Housing, you can be sure that you are using best practice by selling something that is proven to be the best for your customer’s rabbits using science backed research.

Find out if your products meet the standard by requesting your grading stickers
Download the information you need to test your products here

Consumers

We read a horrifying review from a customer who bought a hutch and run for her rabbit from a major retailer. One that would keep them safe and happy whilst she was away. On arriving home, she found her rabbit “lying in the corner with blood covering her head. She'd survived what we believe was a fox attack, but she was badly injured. Two days of her receiving treatment and a very expensive vet bill later, she passed away due to neurological damage caused by the attack.”
She had believed the hutch she had bought would keep her rabbit safe but, in reality, retailers who put rabbit welfare second to profitability leave your bunnies at risk. It is easy for you to walk into a high-street retailer and trust the sales person when they say you’re buying the best on the market but, by buying H.E.A.R.T.S. compliant housing, you can be sure. Each retailer and manufacturer adopting H.E.A.R.T.S. are actively encouraged to display grading stickers (pictured below) which shows you exactly how their rabbit hutches have fared against H.E.A.R.T.S. testing. This means, instead of having to rely on a salespersons advice, you can see for yourself what’s the safest home for your rabbit. If they’re not H.E.A.R.T.S. Compliant, don’t risk it.


sticker example

Why develop the H.E.A.R.T.S.?

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 has done a fantastic job in creating a set of guidelines to be followed by pet owners. It clearly states, amongst other things, that it is an owner’s duty to ensure the welfare of their pet. After becoming angry and frustrated with the continued mistreatment of an animal he holds dear to his heart, having 9 himself, Alex Murphy, owner of Dunster House Ltd says, ‘’I have the resources that others may not, to make a difference. We have dedicated six months of collating research from various organisations, experts and scientists – as well as investing time, money and resources into conducting tests to find answers to any questions not covered in previous research. We have collated this data into H.E.A.R.T.S.: Housing, Enrichment and Amenity for Rabbits: Technical Standards (H.E.A.R.T.S.).’’

This standard utilises a grading system which grades hutches and runs in relation to how they comply to a rabbit’s accommodation. Dunster House have used this grading system across our range of rabbit accommodation and made any necessary changes to ensure all requirements are met – we want others to do the same. This standard was designed to introduce a standardised minimum requirement for rabbit housing so that manufacturers, retailers and pet owners can know that they have done right by these family favourites.

You can download H.E.A.R.T.S. in its entirety by clicking here