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Animal groups: Rabbits are not Easter toys

Shelters see uptick in bunnies following holiday
By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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You might find chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks in your Easter basket this weekend. But it’s after the spring holiday when local animal groups receive their Easter “surprise” — unwanted rabbits and chicks that were most likely given as gifts. “Normally we see rabbits or chickens brought in after Easter. We get a lot of bunnies and some chicks,” said Mike Winters, shelter animal services manager. “Sometimes we see colored chicks, even though people are not supposed to dye them and sell them, it’s illegal.” Winters said a few months after Easter is when new rabbit owners discover their flop-eared pets are harder to care for than they thought. Rabbits will chew through wires and other household wares as they get older and young children can get scratched by a rabbit’s toenails when it kicks with its strong hind legs, he said. “A lot of times it’s very emotional and spur-of-the-moment to buy something because of the season without thought that rabbits or chicks take a lot of care,” Winters said. Janet Foster makes sure people understand the amount of care rabbits require. With her Second Chance Bunnies rescue operation she runs with her husband, Jerry, she carefully screens potential bunny parents. “You need to do research before you get a rabbit, it’s not like a cat or a dog, they’re very dependent on people, very social, and love being around people,” she said. “Educating people is a big part of what I do.” Foster, who started rescuing rabbits five years ago after a beloved bunny passed away, said many petowners struggle through the rabbit’s “teenage years.” When they’re “no longer cute little bunnies” and kick, bite and scratch, some grow tired of their pets. Foster’s rabbits come from owners who surrender the animals, animal shelters or residents who call her to wrangle rabbits who have been “set free” in the wild — a practice Foster discourages. “You’re not setting them free, you’re making food out of them,” she said, adding that raptors have been known to snatch rabbits from out of the sky. Foster accepts surrendered rabbits and tries to find “forever” homes for them. Last year she placed 20 rabbits with new owners and has 10 currently up for adoption. She’s also a source of support for rabbit owners, who may lack proper information on caring for rabbits. Foster reports that her organization also receives an influx of unwanted rabbits following Easter. “I’ve heard of grandparents buying bunnies as a gift for a child. But they’re not toys, they’re not Easter toys,” Foster said. “It’s best to give them big chocolate bunny or stuffed bunny.” ---------- Are you really ready to adopt a bunny? It takes a lot of work to own a rabbit. Here are some of the things Janet Foster of Second Chance Bunnies tells her potential bunny parents. Commitment: Rabbits live 8 to 10 years Cost: Rabbits are exotic pets and not all veterinarians will treat them, and if they do, they may charge more. Bunny-proofing: Just like child-proofing your home, you need to make sure your rabbit has something to chew on besides your computer wires and furniture. Socialization: Rabbits need to be part of the family and thrive on interaction, so don’t stick them in a hutch out in the yard. If you think you are, contact Second Chance Bunnies at Secondchancebunnies@yahoo.com or call the “bunny line” at (530) 269-7764.