The spring season brings familiar signs of life’s renewal―birds building their nests, frogs waking from their winter hibernation, and other wild animals rearing their newborns. As you might imagine, our Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts―one of our three wildlife rehabilitation centers―is busy in springtime caring for young raccoons, squirrels, and other injured or orphaned creatures, like these baby cottontail rabbits.
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
At the same time, animal shelters across the country face a different kind of bunny problem: rabbits bought as Easter gifts, then discarded when children lose interest or families realize they’re not prepared to care for the animals. After cats and dogs, rabbits are the most often surrendered to shelters. Sadly, some people mistakenly release pet rabbits into the wild, not realizing that they’re a different species from their wild cousins and can’t survive on their own.
Domestic rabbits can be cute, smart, and sociable pets. It’s also important to remember that they can live 10 years or more and need fresh vegetables daily, plenty of space to hop around, veterinary care, toys, and other creature comforts. Pet bunnies are easily stressed and don’t do well living outdoors, so they need a large cage or habitat in your home. They must be handled gently and will be happier with another bunny companion.
Like any pet, rabbits require a serious commitment, just like bringing a dog or a cat into your home. Please spread the word to family and friends and other members of the community about not adding to the influx of abandoned bunnies coming into shelters this spring. Baby rabbits (and chicks) don’t belong in Easter baskets. And if you’ve done your research and are ready to bring a bunny (or two) into your family, visit your local animal shelter or rabbit rescue to find a long-eared friend.