February is Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month and it’s a good time to consider bunnies that wind up in a rescue facility or worse, set free to try to find a way to survive on his or her own. Dozens of rabbit rescue organizations have popped up over the years to help those who either need to surrender a rabbit to a facility, or, far less occurring, adopt a rabbit. General shelters where dogs and cats can be found also have rabbits in their facilities as well.
Part of the problem is the purchasing of rabbits for children as an Easter gift. The novelty of having a new bunny wears off pretty quickly, and the rabbit is left unintended for days at a time before the adult in the family is forced to look for ways to “rid” themselves of this animal who has now become a pest.
Adding to the problem is the breeding of specialty rabbits with cutesy names like the American Fuzzy Lop and the Britannia Petit, the latter being less than three pounds. (Rabbit Breeds.org) An estimated three to seven million rabbits are living as pets in American households, according to the House Rabbit Society, the largest of rabbit rescue organizations with chapters in virtually every state. Easter is the catalyst for the jump in sales of rabbits from pet stores and breeders every year; very much like movies and television shows influence sales of specific surplus dog breeds. For example, within a year after the movie 101 Dalmatians premiered, shelters saw a jump in the number of Dalmatians coming to their shelter. Dalmatians are not for everyone, and the demand for them causes unscrupulous breeders to interbreed and ship out puppies long before they are ready to leave their mothers. The same is true for Snow Dogs (Alaskan Huskies), the television show Frasier (Parson Russell Terriors). All of these breeds can be difficult to raise. The same is true for rabbits, they have very specific dietary and veterinary needs that can be costly and time-consuming.
Pet stores and breeders ship out their baby rabbits when they are just four weeks old because baby rabbits are cuter and safer for small children to handle. But they grow to a full-size adult within a year and can live to up to a dozen years. The House Rabbit Society reports that “Rabbits are intelligent, social animals who need affection, and they can become wonderful companion animals if given a chance to interact with their human families.” But most of them are not given the chance, according to PetaKids, because they are abandoned and left to die, or die because of lack of proper care.
Other issues surrounding rabbits are just as dire. According to APHIS, rabbits are bred in high numbers to meet the demands of the laboratory research companies, the meat industry, and for the making of fur coats and other rabbit fur products.
So maybe this February, being that it’s Adopt a Rescued Rabbit month, you may consider adopting a rabbit as a new house companion; encouraging others to stick to chocolate and stuffed bunnies as Easter gifts; vowing not to include rabbits in your diet or purchasing items made from their fur.