We have investigated welfare issues at exhibitions or promotions involving live animals after receiving feedback from the public.
Earlier in 2011 (at the onset of the Year of the Rabbit), we investigated two reported cases of rabbits being displayed under extremely stressful conditions in shopping centres. Although licences had been granted by the AVA, the organisers had not done enough to protect the welfare of the animals. In one case, there was no crowd control and the rabbits were being poked at, cameras were flashed in their faces and the rabbits were observed to be cowering and trying to escape human contact. Some of the rabbits were housed in grilled-bottom cages. We wrote to the AVA who later advised the organisers on the issues raised.
In September 2011, our Inspectors visited another exhibition in a shopping mall. Hamsters, guinea pigs and chinchillas were on display and used for photography sessions with the public. Some of the animals were clearly stressed, particularly the guinea pigs. The organisers were advised on how to improve the environment for the animals, such as providing a shelter where the animals could retreat to. Though the intention may have been to educate the public, the stress on the animals was significant due to the noise, excitement and unfamiliar surroundings.