Pet detective says stolen giant rabbit is ‘still hot’ and a smuggling risk

Dog thefts are one thing.

A giant rabbit, however, is a leap into the unknown.

On Tuesday, experts admitted to being worried and bemused by the disappearance of Darius, the 4ft-long pet thought to have been stolen from its oversized enclosure in Worcestershire last weekend.Professional pet detective Robert Kenny said the theft showed how people would go to extreme lengths to get their hands on valuable animals like Darius, a continental giant rabbit.

He said the thief had likely scouted the location of the crime in advance and is now trying to get the rabbit out of the country.

“The only way that this can be sold is if it goes out of the UK – it’s still hot, it’s still high profile. So it’s of paramount importance that borders are closed [to stop] the opportunity for this animal to be moved. If the animal remains in the UK, I have no doubt whatsoever that it has to be recovered,” he said. “The owner needs to contact ferry ports and make sure that this rabbit does not go outside of the UK.”

The rabbit belongs to Annette Edwards, who said he was stolen from her garden in the village of Stoulton, Worcestershire, on Saturday night. She has pleaded for his safe return and even offered a £2,000 reward.

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Kenny, who has helped reunite hundreds of pets with their owners through Happy Tails Detective agency, said: “It’s a very rural area so somebody has checked out this situation and the property well before this has happened. It’s pretty clear that somebody would have had to look at the routine probably over two or three weeks prior to this happening.”Darius won the Guinness World Record for the longest living rabbit in 2010 when he was certified as being 129cm long, beating the previous record holder – his mother, Alice. Edwards previously said she kept Darius in a kennel, rather than a hutch, and treated him more like a dog than a rabbit.Roland White, the chairman of the National Continental Giant Rabbit Club and part of the British Rabbit Council’s management committee, said the case – and Darius – were unusual indeed.

He said the breed ordinarily has a life expectancy of 4-6 years, although some do live longer.

“I find it strange that the same rabbit is still alive,” said White.

“Most only live to about four or five years old. But it’s unfortunate she’s had it stolen. And I suspect there could be a ransom demand for it.”

Kenny said: “It can’t be bred and it can’t be sold – it’s almost as if it’s a collector’s item.”White said he registered the continental giant breed in the 1990s and that the rabbits are the same as the European Flemish giant rabbits, although many people use the continental giant name to charge more money for them online.

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He previously bred continental giants – he had to stop when he began to struggle to handle them – but he still breeds other kinds of rabbit and said demand has soared during lockdown. “For the last 20 years it’s been quiet. Then all of a sudden in the last six months everybody wants one of my rabbits,” he said.

The larger rabbit breeds are also becoming more popular. Lara Alford, the centre manager at Blue Cross rehoming station in Southampton and a former continental giant rabbit owner, said: “They’re really huge rabbits and I think people are quite attracted to that, it’s something different.” However, she said people can underestimate the amount of care and space they need.

“Even with smaller rabbits we’re trying to convince owners a hutch is not enough and a shed might be more suitable,” she said. “So you can imagine what kind of accommodation you’re looking for when you’ve got giant rabbits.”

She urged for the rabbit to be returned and for its health, particularly in its old age, to be considered. “Any change of home or environment is really traumatic – those sort of changes can have such a massive effect in terms of the stress on pets, and particularly rabbits.”

Annette Edwards has been contacted for comment.

The routine of caring for a pet can bring structure and purpose to daily life. Maybe you don’t always want to get out of bed, but your pet wants you to. Isn’t that a good thing?

West Mercia police has asked for anyone with information to get in contact and ask for PC Daren Riley.