Rabbit rescues prepare for peak season, expecting Easter bunnies to be abandoned
In this Tuesday, June 21, 2016 photo a female New England cottontail rabbit sits in a cage at the Roger Williams Park Zoo, in Providence, R.I. In an ambitious restoration project, following 50 years of decline in the population of the species due to reduced habitat, federal and state authorities are raising the rabbits in captivity to release scores of tiny bunnies this summer into areas where thickets and brush have returned. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, April 17, 2017 7:35AM EDT
Rabbit rescue organizations are preparing for an influx of surrendered and stray bunnies as Easter weekend comes to an end.
Kaylie Ngo, president of London, Ont.,-based Hoppy Hearts, said the peak season for her rescue starts in June and July -- and much of the volume stems from bunnies that were hastily purchased as Easter gifts for kids.
Bunnies are usually given as gifts when they're about eight weeks old, Ngo said. But after a few months, their personalities start to shift.
"They start becoming very hormonal and active little teenagers that like to poop and pee and start destroying things," she said.
The executive director of Rabbit Rescue Inc. in Cambridge, Ont., said oftentimes, parents who buy the animals for their kids don't understand what they're getting into.
"They're really similar to cats and dogs, not like hamsters and gerbils," Haviva Porter-Lush said. They can't be kept in a small cage, for instance. Porter-Lush recommends keeping them in a pen or a dedicated room to themselves.
And they're also more like cats and dogs in terms of cost than many people realize, she added.
"When people see them in the store for $30 or $40, they don't realize that, say, 'in five or six months time, I'm going to need to spend $300 to $700 getting my rabbit spayed."'
Ngo said that sometimes, a lack of veterinary care can be an issue for rabbit owners.
"Despite being the third most popular pet in North America, they are still considered an exotic pet by many veterinarians, and it can be really, really hard to find a good veterinarian to care for the rabbit," she said.
Both Hoppy Hearts and Rabbit Rescue Inc. send rabbits that are up for adoption to foster homes -- neither organization has a dedicated shelter space.
"It's hard, because it's a busy time of year and we get full very quickly," said Porter-Lush, adding that they're limited by the number of people who have agreed to act as foster families.
In fact, Ngo said her rescue has become so busy that it's had to stop accepting owner-surrendered bunnies. Right now, she said, Hoppy Hearts is only taking in rabbits that have been abandoned outside.
"Even if only temporarily, being put outside is a death sentence," she said.
So when they get the call about a domestic rabbit that someone has spotted outside, they act fast. Ngo said that at least two people will go out to the scene and try to corral the rabbit into a pen.
Then, they scan the bunny for immediate health concerns: dental issues, parasites and injuries. If it's all clear, they go ahead and get the bunny spayed or neutered as quickly as possible.
Both Ngo and Porter-Lush recommend fostering a rabbit before eventually adopting one -- it's less commitment, and gives people a chance to see whether a rabbit is a good fit for their household.