Is It Illegal to Release Rabbit Into The Wild?

Rabbit in the wild

Rabbits are adorable, affectionate, beautiful animals and are fantastic pets. It is not atypical to buy one on impulse just looking at them. But “adorable” can quickly become unsatisfactory when faced with the financial, physical and emotional costs it would take to care for one.

Purchasing a rabbit is and should be a rational decision made with the intention of a long commitment irrespective of future circumstances. Many rabbit owners get rid of their rabbits because of an inability to care for them, especially in times of unforeseen circumstances. This is utterly disheartening and we highly recommend against it. 

Is It Illegal To Release Rabbit Into The Wild?

While we may wish to declare an emphatic “No”, the laws concerning this phenomenon may vary from place to place. In North America, especially Canada and USA, many states and/or provinces have laws against the release of rabbits into the wild as well as laws that protect their general wellbeing.

Many of the laws also prohibit the sale of rabbits at certain places and in certain conditions especially if they are below 14-16 weeks of age. This means that many of the rabbits owned and that you may own were already bred in captivity and domestically trained. Releasing them into the wild is doing so into very unfamiliar and unchartered territories. 

Unfortunately, in many other countries in the world, these laws may not be the same as in the United States or Canada. Even within these countries, laws on animal cruelty in this regard may be too vague and thus open to interpretation.

They may also not be easy to be enforced. This is largely because it is difficult to catch and prosecutive rabbit owners who release their rabbits. Perhaps a better question to ask is “Is it ETHICAL to release a rabbit into the wild?”. To that, we can freely say an emphatic “No”!

What Does It Mean to Release a Rabbit into the Wild?

Releasing rabbits into the wild is a conscious decision. Therefore, it does not count if your rabbit escaped or you mistakenly lost it (although, you should take all measures to find it). Releasing your rabbit into the wild is considered an act of abandonment.

Domestic rabbits have little in common with ones who are accustomed to living in the wild. They may both have buck teeth, large ears and adorable fluffy bodies but that is where the similarities end. Wild rabbits, for one, are incredibly wary of any human interaction. They are very accustomed to the wild areas and will most likely move quickly. 

Wild rabbits often also weigh less than domestic rabbits because of their constant mobility and lack of treats and special foods. Domestic rabbits have no wild instinct or at least, not enough to effectively navigate the unfamiliar terrain of the wild environment. 

Also, because many wild rabbits are of different species from those trained for generations among the human population, domestic rabbits released into the wild will find no colony to attach themselves to. More often than not, it will act like prey attempting to avoid confrontation with the predator or places it may consider predator territory. And because it is unfamiliar with the territory, it will most likely be mistaken about safe areas. 

Basically, releasing a domesticated rabbit into the wild is releasing it into danger. In the very fierce and dangerous competition to survive in the wild, it is very unlikely that your rabbit will survive. It has neither the instincts nor the body nor the capability necessary to function adequately in the wild. In all honesty, it is a cruel fate. 

Why is it illegal to Release a Rabbit into the Wild?

Considering the fact that a lot of owners (running into thousands) release their rabbits into the wild, there is little wonder as to why animal laws had to be put in place to curb this practice.  

Setting aside for a moment the harm this practice does to our fluffy rabbit friends, here’s why the government may have thought it necessary to set the law on this practice:

I. Population Issues

Say there is no law on the phenomenon and your rabbit has found a way to survive in the wild, rabbits will begin to reproduce without controlled measures.  What this means is that rather quickly, these colonies of rabbits begin to break into human territories such as farms and fields and eat up crops and affect human food populations. 

II. The risk of Diseases

Domesticated rabbits do not have as strong an immune system as their wild counterparts who over years of living and adapting to the wild can ward off certain diseases. Even when they do contract these diseases, they typically avoid human territory and pose little danger to humans.

Domesticated rabbits left in the wild can very easily contract diseases and spread them within the human population. Such diseases include Rabbit Calicivirus Disease which is also known as Viral Hemorrhagic Disease- very infectious and dangerous disease-causing fatalities. 

III. The cost of Eradication

As these rabbits begin to pose a problem to the ecosystem and human life, the government is obligated and mandated to take measures to eradicate the problem. The money spent could very well be spent on other measures should the problem not exist.

This also means that much of taxpayers’ money will be used for a problem that is very avoidable. Thankfully, there are a lot of kind-hearted individuals who take it up as their responsibility to rescue such animals. They come in form of volunteers and/or non-governmental organisations.

How to Release a Rabbit into the Wild Legally 

Hopefully, by this point in this article, you have begun to understand the dangers posed not just to the rabbit but also to you as an owner and a member of the human population. 

If, however, for some reason you wish to let go of your rabbit for its safety or yours and are wondering how you may release it into the wild legally, you can’t. There is no legal way to send a rabbit into the wild. It is dangerous except you want to take the time out to teach it the skills to survive in the wild which, obviously, you cannot.  

Here are some alternatives you may wish to consider should it be imperative that you let go of your rabbit.  

  • Ask a friend: You may wish to ask any friends or friends of friends who may have an interest in adopting a rabbit to kindly adopt yours. You may be surprised how many there would be who would almost literally snatch it from your hands. If they are first-time pet/rabbit owners, ensure to teach them how to care for the rabbit. 
  • Find a shelter: There are many non-governmental organisations that have dedicated themselves to caring for animals in order to help them and ultimately, our ecosystem. Do the work to explore multiple shelters that may be available to you in your cities, states, provinces or countries. They will ensure not only the safety of your rabbit but also find it a new home.  Make sure though that the shelter is legally authorized and safe.

You may find that there are no laws specific enough to disturb you from releasing them. This is unfortunate but we remain adamant in advising you against such action.  

Disadvantages of Releasing a Rabbit into the Wild 

While we may seem to have exhausted the list in advising against releasing domestic rabbits into the wild, we think it proper to itemize a few things. You may feel it is proper for a rabbit to be “set free” and may even think it is a form of animal rescue from captivity. While you may have good intentions you are putting it in a lot of danger. 

  • Domesticated rabbits will not find food as expertly as wild ones who have learned the territory and so will most likely not survive. 
  • A domesticated rabbit often has very different colouring from wild ones who typically have light brown fur. The domesticated rabbit’s fur which often has a blend of colours and spots will make them easy prey to predators because of their inability to blend in with their environment.  
  • The domesticated rabbit does not understand weather conditions and while it may seek temporary shelters, it will be ill-equipped to properly aid itself and will develop diseases such as pneumonia. 
  • Rabbits who have been domesticated have had a taste of a variety of foods such as carrots.  These are not very easy to find in the wild. Hence, in a bid to locate these better-tasting and sweet-smelling treats, they will enter farms and destroy crops.  That is if they succeed. They will often have to pass through human-populated areas to access these snacks and may face such dangers as traffic and poachers. 


As pet owners, you must first understand the great commitment it takes to care for a pet. Avoid impulse adoption. It is safer for both you and the rabbit.

Written by Justin Michaels

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