Easter is only a few days away, and though many people will be enjoying the holiday, for a number of the nation’s baby rabbits, the day brings bad news.
According to HuffPo, nearly 80% of the bunnies currently living in animal shelters were originally purchased as last year’s Easter gifts. Animal rescuers want to prevent the same thing from happening this year, as well as help those in shelters find homes, so this Easter, they’re urging people to be aware of the facts.
Although bunnies can be excellent pets, they’re not particularly suitable for young children, which is where the problem arises, since parents often buy baby bunnies for their kids’ Easter baskets. But once out of that adorable baby stage, many owners no longer find them cute or want the responsibility of raising them, particularly since the average rabbit lifespan is a decade or more.
Carolyn Gracie of the Main Line Animal Rescue explains, “Bunnies grow very quickly, and they’re not tiny and cute for very long. Often after a very short time, people abandon them and they end up in shelters, or worse.”
A blog post at PETA.com elaborates on just what “worse” can mean. “Some do not find good homes. Many are turned over to animal shelters after kids grow bored with them, or, worse, they are let outside to be ‘free’ and are very quickly hit by cars or eaten by other animals.”
It doesn’t help that many people are unaware of just how much care a rabbit needs. Not only should they be kept indoors (not out in a hutch), but they need stimulus and medical care, just like any pet.
June Booth, a rabbit rescuer based in New Orleans, knows a thing or two about rabbit care. She has saved 14 bunnies, including one that she found racing down the street, partially dyed pink in celebration of Easter. Five of her rescues are still living, and she and her husband share their home with the pets, which are clean and litter box trained.
Her advice to anyone considering adopting a rabbit is no-nonsense. “They’ve got to know rabbits mean a commitment,” she says. “They live 10 to 12 years, and rescues and shelters just don’t have the room or the money to take them all in.”
She adds, “Rabbits are intelligent, and they need attention. I don’t want people to think they can just put them in a little cage and feed them once a day.”
Rabbit owners must have a safe, fenced off space in the home, be willing to train the bunny to use a litter box, and provide a diet that includes hay. They also need get their pet(s) spayed and/or neutered, which will improve overall health and stave off potential aggression issues.
If you can handle all of that, Gracie encourages animal lovers to consider adopting (not buying!) bunnies, because they make really do great pets, as long as you’re prepared.
“Rabbits make fabulous pets,” she says. They’re smart, they’re fun, they don’t make any noise, so if you live in an apartment, they’re a great choice. They’re a great choice for children over the age of 10.”
For more info on all things bunnies, including adoption, check out the House Rabbit Society, or check with your local shelter about providing one of last year’s “Easter” bunnies with a forever home.
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