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Unusual misunderstanding of domestic rabbits has made them one in all essentially the most abandoned pets in the US.

Revealed April 12, 2017

10 min be taught

Editor’s display camouflage: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, shelters and rescue teams throughout the U.S. and around the globe represent a increased want for oldsters to foster or adopt domestic pets, including rabbits. Some shelters even provide some distance-off adoption screening and curbside pickups. Could presumably hang to you’re attracted to fostering a rabbit, here is a list of rescue teams by grunt and by nation.

It’s the Saturday earlier to Easter weekend at Petland in Fairfax, Virginia. Sixteen child bunnies sit in three originate pens, all on the market. Two teenage girls attain into a pen, scoop one up, and plop down on the bottom, squealing over its cuteness: “I want it!”

The rabbits are all very young. No adult rabbits are on the market here.

“What occurs to the babies who develop up earlier to they’re supplied?” I attach a question to a salesman. “The breeder picks them up,” he says.

“What does he enact with them?”

“I don’t know.”

Rabbits are the third most standard pet in The usa, after cats and dogs, in accordance with the Humane Society of the US—and the third most abandoned. Most Americans hang a scheme of how prolonged cats and dogs are residing, the roughly care they want, their behaviors. But rabbits? I requested diverse of my colleagues how prolonged they specialise in domestic rabbits are residing. “One to two years?” “Per chance three?” Genuinely, with true care, rabbits are residing 10 to 12 years. Folks’s thought of them appears to be out of step with their ubiquity.

This disconnect appears to drive impulse pet rabbit purchases, says Anne Martin, govt director of the Home Rabbit Society, a actually extra special rabbit rescue organization in the U.S. Because many folks specialise in they’re short-lived, low repairs, cage-sure animals, rabbits are seen as “starter pets,” corresponding to goldfish, glorious for kids. This misconception could furthermore honest wait on drive a glut of child bunny sales earlier to Easter—and a subsequent rise in rabbit abandonments.

Jennifer McGee, co-supervisor of the Georgia chapter of Home Rabbit Society, a safe haven in the southeastern part of the grunt, says they most regularly accept one to two calls a week about abandoned rabbits. But in the six weeks after Easter, the safe haven will get three to four calls a day. Home Rabbit Society chapters in Idaho and Chicago represent a extra noticeable rise in summer, as “Easter bunnies” hit puberty and fact items in for homeowners.

And here’s the real fact: Though rabbits can construct scrumptious companions, they’re now no longer straightforward-care pets. Vets and insurance firms purchase into consideration them exotic pets, so scientific care could furthermore also be extra costly than for a cat or dog. Rabbits desire a form of stutter and shouldn’t simply be pent up in a cage. This methodology they’ve to be taught to stutter a litterbox (yes, rabbits could furthermore also be potty trained), which takes persistence, true as it does for cats. They’re furthermore prey animals, and we’re, effectively, predators. They in overall don’t deal with to be picked up by humans; they salvage to be up to speed, their feet on the bottom.

“It takes a patient person to turn out to be friends with these restful and delicate animals,” says Margo DeMello, president of the Home Rabbit Society.

Rabbits’ complexity methodology they in overall face a grim destiny when purchased on a whim. Seemingly cute and cuddly, as soon as child bunnies mature, at between three and 6 months veteran, they can turn out to be aggressive and even negative. Excellent stutter, litterbox working towards, and spaying or neutering curbs the topic for many rabbits. But many contemporary homeowners judge that the undesirable behaviors are the label of a topic rabbit and assign away with it. Others could furthermore honest enact some compare and draw back on the time and money it takes to alternate bunny habits. McGee says she’s in overall met with shock and frustration from folks: “What enact you point out I in fact hang to use $200 to fix a $30 rabbit?”


It’s unclear what number of rabbits are abandoned in the U.S.—and what number of are Easter bunnies. There isn’t a central organization gathering data, DeMello says. Most person shelters video display what number of dogs and cats are came upon, adopted, or euthanized, however they in overall lump rabbits in with birds, reptiles, and microscopic mammals in the “varied” class.

Rescuers in native rabbit shelters from California’s Bay Space to rural Georgia to suburban Connecticut all repeat National Geographic that even supposing abandonments spike in the weeks and months after Easter, they’re an infinite topic year-round.

In step with Martin, about two-thirds of rabbits rescued in Northern California are strays left to fend for themselves. In some cities, Las Vegas and Spokane, Washington, to illustrate, public parks and empty plenty hang turn out to be dumping grounds overrun with hundreds of unfixed, undesirable rabbits. Folks abandon many rabbits originate air, doubtless unaware that this is a loss of life sentence. Home rabbits lack the survival instincts of their wild cousins, Martin says, and are unable to fight an infection, have safe shelters, or adapt to heat and frosty.

Shelters fight to defend. The Georgia Home Rabbit Society will get extra than 500 requests a year from homeowners seeking to assign away with their rabbits—device over they’ve the sources to place. Edie Sayeg, a rescuer with the community, believes thousands of rabbits are simply ditched originate air in Georgia.

Elizabeth Kunzelman, a spokeswoman for Petland, a serious nationwide pet retailer that sells rabbits, says the spring months are “ time for a kid to originate up caring for a brand contemporary pet and studying responsibility.” But DeMello believes this mindset is problematic. “Kids, truthfully, opt one thing cuddlier and extra obviously attentive and are in overall frustrated when rabbits don’t acknowledge to them the manner they query.” Other pet stores, including Petco and Petsmart, stopped selling rabbits diverse years in the past thanks to concerns about abandonment. Kunzelman says Petland has a purchase-aid protection for rabbits and varied animals.

But two years after I visited the Petland in Fairfax, Virginia, the Humane Society of the US released undercover photos documenting alleged mistreatment and deaths of rabbits on the shop. Fairfax County police investigated and came upon 31 ineffective rabbits in a freezer in the shop in April 2019. Lieutenant Ronnie Lewis, who oversaw the investigation, says that his crew seized the ineffective rabbits as effectively as 17 residing rabbits from the shop. Police placed the surviving rabbits in custody of a municipal animal safe haven. All 17 rabbits are in fact in foster properties and can hang to silent be readily available for adoption almost at this time.

Petland has since terminated its franchise agreement with the shop, announcing in an announcement that the corporate is “saddened and outraged at this alleged horrible violation of Petland’s animal care requirements.” The shop is now closed. The trigger of the rabbit deaths remains below investigation by police.

It’s now no longer true pet stores that promote rabbit purchases. Farm stores, 4-H clubs, backyard breeders, and Facebook and Craigslist users throughout the nation advertise child bunnies earlier to the Easter season. Suzanne Holtz, director of Illinois-based mostly mostly Bunnies United Community, says these sellers could furthermore also be mighty extra problematic than pet stores for the explanation that rabbits in overall hang a misplaced “halo of rescue” about them. Her safe haven will get calls from folks seeking to give up a bunny they “saved” from Craigslist, the build selling animals is ostensibly banned.

It’s an advise to discourage folks from purchasing rabbits as Easter gifts with out discouraging responsible would-be homeowners from having them in any respect, Martin says, as a consequence of for those who understand treasure them, they construct amazing pets.

I know: I in fact hang two rescue rabbits of my hang. Roger, a Blanc de Hotot (a French breed necessary for murky-rimmed “eyeliner” eyes) turned into as soon as came upon abandoned in a microscopic cage in a park. Rescued by D.C.-space community Visitors of Rabbits, he’s odd, fearless, and loving. Penelope, an English Angora, turned into as soon as came upon on the boulevard as a child. A Washington Humane Society rescue, she’s bonded with Roger—they’re companions who groom and play with each and each varied—and is opinionated and ornery. They’re litter-trained, hang free rein of our dwelling, and carry me and my husband joy day-after-day.

Editor’s display camouflage: This yarn turned into as soon as updated on April 19, 2019, to consist of contemporary data about the Fairfax, Virginia, Petland.

To be taught extra about rabbit care, consult with Home Rabbit Society at rabbit.org. Could presumably hang to it’s possible you’ll well presumably effectively be attracted to adopting a rabbit of your hang, it’s possible you’ll well presumably furthermore attain out to your native HRS chapter, or an animal safe haven on your space.

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