As they do every year at this time, members of the local rabbit rescue community are urging people to avoid the temptation to purchase or adopt bunnies as Easter gifts for their children.
They say what begins as a well-meaning gesture often leads to abandoned bunnies when the novelty wears off and families realize they’re not equipped to properly care for the animals.
The Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation sent out its annual message this week, reminding the public that “real baby rabbits, chicks and ducklings make poor Easter presents. If you are tempted to buy a real rabbit for the Easter basket, please reconsider.
“The typical `Easter bunnies’ sold illegally on the streets or in pet stores are tiny babies, taken from their mothers before they are properly weaned. Many of these baby rabbits will die soon after purchase — hardly a fun experience for kids,” the message continues. “When you adopt a rabbit, you’re making a commitment to support a small, fragile prey animal over the next 10-15 years.”
In keeping with their annual practice, the L.A. Rabbit Foundation will not be doing any rabbit adoptions between now and April 7.
For those with children, rescue groups and animal control officials recommend buying a stuffed toy bunny or chocolate candy rabbit for kids’ Easter baskets.
Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. They require feeding, cleaning, attention, and humane indoor housing in a bunny-proofed room, and veterinary care can be expensive.
Experts say they’re also not ideal pets for small children. Most bunnies do not like to be picked up or held, may scratch or bite in an effort to get free, and can be seriously injured or even killed if dropped.
Retail sales of rabbits, dogs and cats is prohibited in California, but direct sales are still permitted, including online, and illegal street sales occur in urban areas where baby bunnies are sometimes deceptively marketed as adult “dwarfs.”
Advocates for the animals do want them to be adopted into loving homes, but they stress that adoption is a serious commitment that requires a willingness to learn the ropes.
All five shelters in the Los Angeles Animal Services system have rabbits available for adoption, and private groups like the L.A. Rabbit Foundation and Bunny World Foundation in Los Angeles offer support and mentoring for new bunny owners. In addition, the House Rabbit Society has resources for learning about proper rabbit care, which can be found at rabbit.org/.
A few basics:
— Domestic rabbits should be kept indoors at all times.
— 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 need immediate care from a veterinarian trained in the care of rabbits. Bunnies who stop eating can die within 36 hours. Not every vet has expertise with rabbits, so owners should find the one nearest them that they can rely on in an emergency.