Refrain from giving rabbits as Easter gift, animal advocates urge – NBC Los Angeles

Refrain from giving rabbits as Easter gift, animal advocates urge – NBC Los Angeles

With Easter a little over a week away, shelter officials and animal rescue groups in Riverside County are urging people not to buy rabbits as holiday gifts for children.

They say that what begins as a well-meaning gesture often leads to abandoned animals when the novelty wears off and families realize they’re not equipped to properly care for the pets.

“We do see bunnies brought to the shelter after the holiday fun wears off,” Riverside County Department of Animal Services spokesperson Kerri Mabee told City News Service.

“We encourage parents and anyone who is considering the idea of gifting a bunny on Easter to do their homework. Bunnies, like any pet, require a commitment of care to include special food and supplies. They will need exercise and a clean and comfortable environment,” Mabee continued. “So, it’s important to make sure there is a shared awareness of the responsibilities and expense of caring for a bunny as a pet. It’s a responsibility that will extend past the holiday, for sure.”

Mabee added that the department plans to conduct social media outreach on the issue this week.

Instead of a live animal, 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.”

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 in 2023.

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.”

“Every year, shelters report an influx of rabbits who were bought for Easter and then discarded once their cuteness or novelty wore off,” PETA’s Catie Cryar told City News Service. “Some of them are bought to put in children’s Easter baskets, whereas others are purchased by family photographers to be used as props for Easter photos. Rabbits are reportedly the third-most commonly surrendered animals to our nation’s shelters, and it’s estimated that about 80% of them bought for Easter will die or be abandoned within the first year, so this is a life-and-death issue.”

The animal rights group is running a public service announcement on some radio stations and spreading the message on X and other social media accounts that “rabbits are someone, not something,” Cryar added. “We also like to remind everyone that adding an animal to the family should come with a lifelong commitment to them. If someone is truly prepared to provide a rabbit with a lifetime of specialized care, the answer is to adopt — not shop.”

Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. They require a specific diet, 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 who’s also been spayed or neutered for lifelong companionship. Single bunnies can be lonely and depressed.
  • They should be fed a diet of unlimited timothy hay (or alfalfa hay for rabbits under 6 months), plus a daily portion of leafy greens and limited pellets.
  • 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.

Those who are prepared to make the 8- to 12-year commitment to caring for one or more bunnies were encouraged to consider adopting from a local rescue group or Riverside County shelter, which are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Refrain from giving rabbits as Easter gift, animal advocates urge – NBC Los Angeles

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