The influx of rabbits in shelters after the Easter season should be curbed by educating potential pet owners on the dos and do-nots of rabbit care.
Simply put, rabbits are tedious pets. If the owner is not fully aware of the complexities of the animal they are bringing home, they are far more likely to be unable to provide the pet with the proper care and treatment. Some are rehomed, some land in worse hands.
Courtney Gurly from the House Rabbit Society in Kennesaw said that although these Easter-themed pets may be gifted with good intentions, just as a cuddly friend for a child, they are often discarded by owners once they reach maturity. This is usually four to six months after the pet is gifted. They begin to act out, become territorial, destructive and lose their “cuteness.”
Gurley said that many of these issues can be solved by neutering or spaying the animal. However, vet bills for rabbits are notoriously high, often three times the cost of an average dog or cat. Many people are underprepared and uneducated on the costly ownership of a rabbit and surrender the pet to shelters instead.
With a limited holding capacity for animals, the House Rabbit Society is often restricted to only the most severe cases that have no other home to turn to.
Although not much data is available to track rabbits in shelters, a 2012 study cited by the House Rabbit Society showed that rabbits were the third most frequent surrendered pet. In addition, many rabbits were not surrendered for their behavioral issues. These pets were given up because the previous owner could not care for them.
Rabbits are also not the starter pet that many people expect them to be. According to National Geographic, the abundance of misconceptions about rabbit care and needs cause the rising number of surrendered rabbits. Many of these rabbits are impulse pet purchases, as well.
While many people purchase the animals to snuggle and show love to, they fail to remember that rabbits’ brains are still wired to be prey animals. Gurley said that with their feet not touching the ground, they are less likely to act as the furry friend they were bought to be. An owner needs to learn to get on their level to provide the animal with a good home.
Rather than give a pet as a gift, people can consider helping out shelters in the spirit of giving instead. Gurley said that although the shelter is always accepting monetary donations and items from their Amazon wish list, education is also a valuable gift.
Sharing their newsletters, pamphlets and guides on rabbit ownership is an easy step for any person considering a rabbit for themselves or others. They are also active on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, where they promote fundraisers often for new intakes.