BY DIANA KRONENBERG
Every spring, there are parents who buy their children rabbits as Easter presents, and a couple of months later, many of those same rabbits wind up neglected, surrendered to shelters, or abandoned outside. Unfortunately well-meaning parents may not understand how much work is required for the care of a rabbit. After a few weeks, the novelty frequently wears off and children lose interest. The parents may look to get rid of the rabbit, and sometimes that means dumping them outside, where domestic rabbits cannot survive on their own.
On Long Island, the Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group gets approximately 100 calls each month from people wanting to re-home their store-bought bunnies, and right after Easter is always the worst. A domestic rabbit can live eight to twelve years, so they are long-term commitment. A rabbit is actually very much like a cat, and most parents know better than to buy their child a kitten on a whim.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not a low-maintenance “starter pet” for a young child. They require specialized veterinary care regularly, a special diet and need an adult as primary caregiver. Domestic rabbits are also much happier if they live indoors, and require more than just a small cage. If they cannot have a large living space, they at least need to have time to run around every day. They are not cuddly playthings; they are a prey species who usually feel frightened when picked up and held.
Many pet store baby bunnies do not even survive past a few weeks, because they were weaned underage or contracted a disease. This results in costly vet bills for the new owners, death for the young bunny, and trauma for the child who loved him. If the bunny does make it to puberty, its hormones can make it aggressive and since pet store do not usually inform people about spaying and neutering, parents frequently just want to get rid of rabbit. Sometimes they are just dumped them in the wild, which is essentially a death sentence.
A much better alternative to live rabbits as Easter gifts is chocolate or toy bunnies which require much less work and the child will probably enjoy just as much. If a family still thinks a rabbit might be a good idea, please do not buy on impulse. Wait until after the holiday and make an informed decision by learning about rabbit care first.
Instead of buying from a pet store, consider adopting a rabbit from your local shelter or rescue group. The Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group has dozens of formerly abandoned rabbits for adoption, all spayed and neutered with a clean bill of health. You are highly unlikely to find that in any pet store.
For more information on rabbits, please visit www.longislandrabbitrescue.org and rabbit.org. If you are interested in adopting, you can view adoptable rabbits on Long Island at www.longislandrabbitrescue.org/adoptables.htm or on Petfinder.com.