Easter is less than a week away and if you’ve been thinking of giving a rabbits as Easter gifts one Chicago-area rescue would like you to hold off on that idea. Red Door Animal Shelter, a no kill shelter that rescues rabbits (along with cats an dogs) has launched a Respect the Rabbit campaign for the fourth straight year. They’re asking stores and shoppers forget about purchasing rabbits as Easter gifts.
“Too many families purchase a rabbit on impulse for Easter gifts and they don’t realize how complicated rabbit care can be,” says Marcia Coburn, President of Red Door. “We get so many calls from people that see rabbits running lose that don’t appear to be wild rabbits and we end up going out and rescuing them. Domestic rabbits just aren’t cut out to survive out there.”
Since last Easter, Red Door has rescued 51 rabbits from yards, alleys and parks. They are working on saving a 52nd rabbit and the group has taken in almost 100 more from families that weren’t prepared for the rabbit they purchased. That is why they feel it's so important to educate with the Respect the Rabbit campaign. The group is also sponsoring a coloring contest to help teach kids about Respecting the Rabbit - details are here.
When rescuing rabbits, Red Door has found some partially died green or blue – like a stuffed rabbit. Coburn points to the popularity of rabbits as characters in children’s books that often drives their love of the fluffy pets and prompt kids to ask for rabbits as Easter gifts.
“Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America but they just don’t get any respect,” adds Coburn. “After seeing the number of abandoned rabbits escalate over the years, we want to use Easter as a time to educate people about Respecting the Rabbit including asking for Easter Amnesty on the sale of rabbits in pet stores through Easter.”
Both Wilmette Pet and Thee Fish Bowl in Evanston halt rabbit sales in the weeks prior to Easter. Red Door Animal Shelter has an adoption program through Pet Supplies Plus and adoptions are also halted during that time. As a no kill shelter, Red Door Animal Shelter takes in rabbits from The Anti-Cruelty Society, Animal Welfare League and helps catch strays as well. Some of them came in as strays as well.
Because rabbits are prey animals, not predators, they will hide and often are not found until they are very sick or it’s too late. It makes catching them and tracking them down more difficult. This past weekend, Red Door Animal Shelter was called into action to trap three stray rabbits in Chicago neighborhoods, prompting them to be even more diligent to remind people about skipping rabbits as Easter gifts.
“People don’t understand that rabbits are much more complicated than a dog or cat,” says Coburn. “Traditional veterinarians handle cats and dogs and you will need to go to an exotic vet for care. They need lots of hay, a pen and most of all they are very fragile. Their bones are so much more fragile than a dog or cat and they get hurt very easily. They are not a good pet for little kids.”
She says one of her own rabbits was an Easter gift that had been dropped by young children. The rabbit’s leg was broken severely enough that it had to be amputated and ended up in rescue. That's why you should skip rabbits as Easter gifts and look at stuffed rabbits or those of the chocolate variety for your child's Easter basket.
“We really spend a lot of time working with families that want to adopt a rabbit so that they understand what it entails to have a rabbit as a pet,” she adds. “We would rather they walk away than not take it seriously and put the pet through the stress of an adoption and return. Rabbits can be a ten year commitment and that shouldn't be taken lightly.”
You can learn a lot more about rabbit care on their web page. And, if you’re thinking of adding a rabbit, take time to talk to the adoption counselors at Red Door Animal Shelter to see if you’re up for the task. And, if you decide to move ahead – adopt, don’t shop. Those pet store bunnies come from mills just like the puppies in the window.
Next year, rabbit purchases will be a bit more difficult in the Chicago area when Easter rolls around. Rabbits are on the list of pet sales banned in Cook County pet stores starting in October and Chicago pet stores in March. Commercially bred dog and cat sales will also halt thanks to new ordinances passed in Cook County and Chicago recently aimed at stopping the sale of puppy mill dogs, kitten mill cats and rabbits from mills.
Red Door Animal Shelter was instrumental in making sure America's third most popular pet wasn't left out of that important legislation.
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