Local shelter suspends rabbit adoptions in light of Easter

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Throughout retail stores across the globe, bunnies are the poster animal for Easter celebrations. However, a local rescue uses this time of year to warn potential pet owners rabbits are not the worry-free pet they are portrayed to be.

“Rabbits are marketed as the perfect beginner pet for children,” explained Tiny Paws Small Animal Rescue owner Jen Hilbers. “They promote tiny rabbit starter cages with a complete set up, they are totally unacceptable. Imagine living in your bathroom! They are seen as cuddly and cute and want to be carried around and cuddled.”

As Hilbers explains, rabbits are prey animals by nature and because of this do not like to be held off of the ground as it makes them feel as though they are being carried away by a predatory bird. Often times the rabbits will kick, scratch and bite to get free which may injure themselves or the human.

Hilbers began Tiny Paws Small Animal Rescue in May 2014 after volunteering at her local shelter. While she was uncertain how to get her own rescue started, she was approached by a local pet store that helped her get the organization off the ground. Since then, Tiny Paws has been able to rescue and re-home many rabbits and guinea pigs. Hilbers explains she treats all health and behavioural issues and does not euthanize due to time spent with the rescue. They ensure all animals are able to stay with the rescue until they find their forever home.

Local shelter, Tiny Paws Small Animal Rescue, has suspended all adoptions until after Easter and is urging the public to educate themselves on proper rabbit care before purchasing a rabbit of their own. (Submitted photo)

Local shelter, Tiny Paws Small Animal Rescue, has suspended all adoptions until after Easter and is urging the public to educate themselves on proper rabbit care before purchasing a rabbit of their own. (Submitted photo)

“My first rescue was for two ‘hutch rabbits,’” said Hilbers. “They had been living outdoors for several years in a backyard hutch and the owner had decided he no longer wanted them. I contacted him and he offered to surrender them to me. It was a very hot and humid day when I went to pick them up. They were next to two barking dogs. He had just hosed the whole hutch down while the rabbits were in it. They were terrified as you can imagine. The larger girl was hiding in a box so he reached in and pulled her out by her ears! I was horrified and asked him not do that. He then handed her to me and her ears were covered in ear mites, she had runny eyes and a runny nose; clear signs that she was suffering from an upper respiratory infection.”

Hilbers explained the male rabbit was much younger and did not have the same health issues she did. Hilbers adopted the female rabbit and named her Gracie, while the male was named Smudge and adopted out to a loving family.

“They are not an outdoor pet, they need to live indoors,” Hilbers said. “Predators, fleas, mites, the extreme changes in weather are all issues which affect an outdoor rabbit. They need to be able to run and play just like a cat or dog. Since rabbits are inherent chewers and diggers they may not be suitable to leave out while you are at work. Locking them in a pet store cage is not the answer though. Suitable enclosures would be an X pen or a bunny condo.”

Rabbits are adventurous creatures who love to hop and climb. They also have a very specific diet, which includes a constant supply of timothy grass hay and may invoke allergies in some people. Rabbits also need fresh greens daily, but not just any greens either. A rabbit’s digestive system is very delicate, and different greens with higher acidic contents have to be limited, such as spinach.

Contrary to advertised “complete rabbit starter cages,” this is what a proper set up may include. Pictured is a “bunny condo," which is approximately 5 feet long by 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall, complete with levels, ramp, tunnel, litter boxes and attaches to an enclosed cage with Timothy hay, pellets and fresh greens. It also includes toys for rabbits to play with and chew on. (Photo by Jolene Perron)

Contrary to advertised “complete rabbit starter cages,” this is what a proper set up may include. Pictured is a “bunny condo,” which is approximately 5 feet long by 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall, complete with levels, ramp, tunnel, litter boxes and attaches to an enclosed cage with Timothy hay, pellets and fresh greens. It also includes toys for rabbits to play with and chew on.
(Photo by Jolene Perron)

“Rabbits have a unique digestive system like horses and need to keep their guts moving. When a rabbit stops eating this is an emergency and a vet visit is necessary,” said Hilbers. “Since they are prey animals they will hide their illnesses until they are very ill. You will need to find an exotic vet because not all vets are rabbit savvy and this means veterinary costs are much higher. Rabbits also need to be spayed and neutered just like a cat or dog and since only an exotic vet can do this surgery, again it is much higher.”

The weeks following Easter prove to be the most difficult for shelters such as Tiny Paws. Hilbers explains, people realize fairly quickly a new baby bunny isn’t often what people expect. Baby bunnies grow into teenagers with raging hormones and can be difficult to deal with, spraying urine, chewing couches, carpets and cords. Many rabbits will end up surrendered to shelters, or worse – “set free.”

“Never release your rabbit outside; they are not like a wild rabbit. They cannot survive,” said Hilbers. “Wild rabbits are always brown and have a smaller triangular face, they are much faster than a domestic rabbit. Any other colour of rabbit is always a domestic rabbit. Domestic rabbits can also be brown as well but they have a broader face and their ears are more open compared to a wild rabbit.”

With Easter quickly approaching, Hilbers is asking the public to do their research before purchasing a rabbit for themselves. A rabbit may not be the perfect pet you think it will be.

For more information on the rescue, visit tinypawssmallanimalrescue.org.

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