A DOG walker discovered three rabbits dumped in a cardboard box by a village roadside.

The three Angora rabbits were found in a field off Croft Road in Neacroft, near Christchurch.

The box was found tipped over and the rabbits were loose in the field but staying close to the box.

The dog walker provided somewhere clean, safe and warm for the rabbits to stay overnight, with food, water and bedding.

RSPCA Patrick Bailey said: “Sadly, one of the rabbits died overnight but two survived and were taken to RSPCA Ashley Heath Animal Centre where staff are giving them the care they deserve.

"They required a thorough groom and general tidy up but were not horrifically matted and they are easy to handle and have clearly been handled in the past.

“There is never an excuse for abandoning an animal. There are charities and organisations that offer help and support to animal-owners who find themselves in difficulty or are no longer able to cope with caring for their pets.

“We also urge anyone thinking of having rabbits as pets to research about how they need to look after them first and ensure they are able to meet all their welfare needs throughout their lives.

“Sadly they are often bought as a child’s first pet and can often be abandoned when the owners become bored or no longer want them.

“Many people do not realise how complex rabbits can be to care for, and we see many come into our centres after owners have not provided them with what they need to be kept happy and healthy.

“Owning and caring for rabbits can be great fun and very rewarding, but it’s a big responsibility and a long-term commitment in terms of care and cost.”

Across England and Wales, the RSPCA rescued 4,081 rabbits and other small furries from cases of cruelty, neglect, and abandonment in 2018 - including 41 in Dorset.

If you have any information on how the rabbits came to be abandoned please call the inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018.