This February is the 11th annual Adopt-a-Rescued-Rabbit Month, with local rabbit rescue groups hosting adoption showcases. Rabbits are the third-most commonly found animals at shelters, says California’s Rabbit Haven. With Easter falling at the end of March, it’s nearing the time when pet stores and backyard breeders are getting ready to tempt parents who think a cute little bunny would be just perfect to pop into a child’s Easter basket — and when shelters are bracing for an influx of unwanted pets.
Thousands of baby rabbits are purchased “on impulse” at Easter, without their new owners having any idea of the amount of care that rabbits need. As the Bay Area-based Rabbit Haven makes very clear, a pet rabbit is not a toy. People should not only think twice about buying a child his or her own Easter bunny. They probably should just go and purchase a stuffed toy instead or some (fair trade) treats, or even sponsor a rabbit at a shelter (here are some with health issues who could use a little extra TLC, virtual as well as real).
Even more, many of the rabbits on sale before Easter have not been properly cared for and are sickly. Baby rabbits are often sold when they are only three weeks old. As rabbits are not weaned from their mothers until they are eight weeks old, the baby ones who show up in pet shops often have underdeveloped immune systems; some are not even able to eat on their own.
Shelters are overwhelmed by a deluge of unwanted post-Easter bunnies and, says Rabbit Haven, too often have to resort to euthanizing them. Some rabbits do not even make it to a shelter but are “simply dumped in the streets, left in parks or in other people’s yards and many of these poor rabbits come to the shelters with severe injuries.” These rabbits are not wild animals and are unable to care for themselves.
Rabbits are not “low maintenance” pets but need gentle and loving care, daily exercise, interaction with people and regular visits to the veterinarian. They can be trained to use a litter box and live for some ten years. Rabbits are “intelligent, interactive and curious little guys,” as a Care2 writer quotes Debby Widolf of the national animal welfare organization, Best Friends Animal Society.
In other words, there are plenty of reasons to adopt a rabbit (or rabbits, if you don’t want yours to get lonely when you’re not home as the House Rabbit Society of Richmond, California suggests). But do keep in mind that Easter is most definitely not one of them!
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