RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Rabbit rescue groups across Southern California are urging people not to purchase bunnies as Easter gifts for children, saying that what begins as a well-intentioned gesture often leads to abandoned animals when the novelty wears off and families realize they’re not equipped to properly care for the pets.
Instead, rescue groups recommend buying a stuffed toy bunny or chocolate candy rabbit for kids’ Easter baskets.
Retail sales of rabbits, dogs and cats are prohibited in California, but direct sales are still permitted, including online, and illegal street sales also occur in which baby bunnies are sometimes deceptively marketed as adult “dwarfs.”
“Every year, we receive numerous reports of bunnies who were bought for Easter and then discarded once their cuteness or novelty wore off, which is why we adamantly advocate against buying live animals as Easter gifts,” PETA’s Catie Cryar told City News Service.
More information from PETA can be found at http://www.peta.org/features/reasons-never-buy-bunny/.
Jude Ferguson, who runs Kribs for Kritters, a rabbit rescue group based in Lake Elsinore, says her group always sees an increase in dumped rabbits after Easter.
“The increase usually comes in the summer after baby buns start growing up and getting hormonal,” she told CNS.
She warned people to never release a domestic bunny in the wild. Domestic and wild rabbits are different species, and domestic bunnies will die very quickly if left outside.
“Just because they see wild cottontails outside doesn’t mean they can dump their domestic rabbits outside,” Ferguson said. “Personally, I keep tabs on locations where there are naturally occurring cottontails because undoubtedly it’s a place where people dump domestics.”
Ferguson advises people who do keep their rabbits to reach out to local rescues for resources on low-cost spay and neuter surgeries.
“That’s a big deal for people who are trying to do the right thing and simply call their local vet and are surprised by the sticker shock,” she says. “I know I help many people with spay/neuter referrals.”
More information can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kerri Mabee of the Riverside County Department of Animal Services told City News Service that the department does not see an increase in rabbits being adopted from the shelter before Easter, or a huge rush of people surrendering rabbits after the holiday.
“We do, however, recommend that residents be thoughtful on the matter of adopting a rabbit to make sure it would be a good fit for the family,” she said. “Rabbits require exercise and a diet that are unique, so it’s a good idea to research what’s involved with having a rabbit as a pet.”
Advocates for the animals do want them to be adopted into loving homes, saying they can be wonderful companions for those who are serious about the commitment. Advocates say the animals are gentle creatures that offer many benefits over other pets, including their quiet nature and a diet of hay and vegetables that avoids adding to the suffering and environmental harm inherent in factory farming that produces dog and cat food.
Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. They require feeding, cleaning, and humane indoor housing in a bunny-proofed room, and veterinary care can be expensive, advocates note.
They’re also not ideal pets for small children, as they respond best to quiet energy and can be easily spooked by the hyperactivity of a child.
Animal advocates offered a series of basic tips:
— Domestic rabbits should be kept indoors at all times.
— Rabbits need to be spayed or neutered as soon as they’re old enough (between four and six months) to avoid unnecessary breeding and to aid their health.
— Once they’ve been spayed or neutered, bunnies should be paired with a mate for lifelong companionship. Single bunnies can be lonely and depressed.
— They should be fed a diet of unlimited timothy hay and a daily portion of leafy greens, plus pellets and alfalfa hay for rabbits under 6 months.
— They should never be kept in cages, as they need room to hop around and exercise their legs.
— They need to be thoroughly groomed every two to three months to remove excess fur and have their nails trimmed.
— They’re aggressive chewers, and need to be kept away from electrical cords and anything that can be dangerous if ingested, such as taped or glued boxes.
— Bunnies who stop eating or appear to be in pain can die within 36 hours, and need immediate care from a veterinarian trained in rabbit care.
Mabee said those who wish to bring a rabbit into their home should consider adopting a shelter animal. She said many bunnies are available for adoption at the Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter at 6851 Van Buren Blvd. in Jurupa Valley.
The House Rabbit Society also has resources for learning about proper rabbit care, which can be found at rabbit.org.
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