Rabbits: Where Can You Have Them In Australia?

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

14 September 2014

It’s hard not to fall in love with the fuzzy wuzzy charm of adorable rabbits! However, before you rush out and buy your floppy eared friends, it’s important to check that rabbits are allowed in your state. Unfortunately, not every part of Australia sees rabbits as pets - rather, they view them as pests that are not permitted to be kept.

The restrictions aren’t widespread, but here is the run-down of what regulations exist where.

the stereotypes are true, rabbits really do love carrots

Where are rabbits considered a pest?

Rabbits are actually considered a pest in every state of Australia - but not all states ban them completely.

It’s hard for any rabbit lover to even consider the idea of these creatures as pests - but it’s not domesticated, desexed rabbits that are the issue, it’s feral rabbits.

The feral rabbit or ‘European Wild Rabbit’ is quite different to the adorable, floppy eared domesticated animals commonly kept as pets. They are small, brown, short haired pests that definitely should not be kept as pets!

What makes rabbits a pest?

There are a number of reasons why the wild rabbit is such a significant pest:

  • Rabbits are considered a major pest as they severely impact on land and soil quality. This is because they destroy vegetation, leaving the soil exposed and vulnerable to erosion. This impacts on other animals such as the bilby and the bandicoot, as their feed sources have been destroyed by the rabbit.

  • Rabbits breed ridiculously quickly.  They can breed from 3 months of age, and each litter generally contains 4-7 baby rabbits. To put it in perspective, a pair of rabbits can produce 30-40 rabbits a year!

Every state has put practices in place to curb the rabbit pest problem, however there’s only one state that won’t allow rabbits to be kept as pets altogether...

QLD

Rabbits are most definitely NOT allowed as pets in QLD - they are the only state that totally outlaws the keeping of rabbits as pets.

The Department of Agriculture states there are only two purposes that qualify a permit to be issued for the keeping of rabbits:

  • For certain forms of public entertainment, i.e. magic shows and circuses

  • For scientific and research purposes (universities only)

Everyone else will have to find a fuzzy alternative we’re afraid!

NSW, ACT, SA, TAS, VIC, WA

Everywhere else in Australia, apart from QLD, does allow domestic rabbit breeds to be kept as pets. It’s best to check with your council or RSPCA to see what specific guidelines there are on keeping these quirky little creatures.

Here are some guidelines we found for NSW, as an example:

  • Housing requirements: rabbits need a hutch to live in, and need to have access to the outdoors so they can do some exercise and catch the sunlight! The hutch also needs to be weather proof, to ensure your bunny is kept safe from the elements. (why not try the Hoppy Hotel, The Wiggle Den or The Rabbit Den - perfect for your floppy-eared friend’s needs!)

  • Health: Rabbits should be vaccinated against Calici Virus, and regular treatments against worms and fleas are recommended.

  • Feeding: Rabbits need a good supply of fresh grass or hay to chew on constantly, as well as a diet of leafy greens, veggies and pellets- not to forget access to clean water!

Oops - I’ve bought a rabbit in QLD and didn’t realise that it was illegal! What do I do?

Unfortunately, you will have to give up your furry friend. Here’s what the government recommends you should do...

  • Do NOT release it into the wild!

  • Find a new home for it in another state quicksmart!

  • Hand it over to the local government office, or the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry office.

  • Find a humane, legal way to dispose of the rabbit.

  • Contact the Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board to Arrange for it to be collected (call 07 4661 4076)

Check out the official word from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries here.

Rabbits do make adorable pets, but if you live in QLD, it is best not to keep them, unless you want to get smacked with a whopping fine! Everywhere else are welcome to have these fuzzy friends as pets, as long as you take care of their needs and keep them healthy, happy and hoppy!

Sources and further reading

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