The RSPCA has launched "Rabbit Action Week" to ensure the animals are kept as "pets not prisoners."

The society says it has seen cases where rabbits are kept in cramped, filthy cages they can barely stand up in, starved to death or the point of emaciation, denied access to water and vital veterinary treatment, neglected, abandoned, and ignored.

It says "rarely a day goes by" without the RSPCA receiving a call about rabbits living in "appalling conditions", making them one of the most neglected and forgotten pets in the region.

Cases confronted by the RSPCA last yearincluded a seriously ill rabbit that was left to die instead of being taken to the vet's, a rabbit that was left to slowly starve to death when its owner moved home, and ten rabbits abandoned by a roadside in a cardboard box.

Today the RSPCA has launched a campaign to highlight the plight of rabbits across the north and to show that many are instead kept as prisoners, not pets.

In 2008 the north region received:

A total of 1,402 calls relating to incidents of rabbit cruelty, neglect or abandonment

902 calls specifically relating to rabbit neglect

318 calls to report rabbits being abandoned 79 calls concerning unnecessary suffering

59 calls about rabbits being unlawfully killed

38 calls to report rabbits being beaten

RSPCA north regional manager Alan Wolinski, said: “These figures are very worrying and show the neglect and abuse suffered by hundreds of rabbits across the north."