Last year, I read a post on Next-door about a family rescuing two abandoned pet rabbits in the rugged hills of a local state park. Most of us are sadly aware of the neighborhood coyote problem and pets that become their meals. Pets released in wilderness areas also face starvation and spread untreated diseases. In California, it is illegal to purposely abandon an animal (CA Penal Code Section 597s). Rabbits are prey animals and innately fearful.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my son and I were hiking a trail at the highest point of the same park, where we spotted a large, white, lop-eared rabbit huddled next to a cement wall in the freezing cold wind. I was certain this was another incidence of someone abandoning their pet rabbit in a high-predator area. I rescued her, purchased essential supplies to feed and house “Bun Bun” overnight, and home we went.
The next morning, I contacted Michelle Kelly, president of Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation (LARF). She provided food, bedding, litter boxes, and bowls for “Bun Bun,” as well as a wealth of information from her extensive rabbit knowledge and experience. Michelle strongly cautions, “With Easter approaching, LARF reinforces the message that it’s unwise for anyone to acquire a live animal on impulse, just because it’s a holiday. While rabbits can be wonderful companion animals, they’re not for everyone. Rabbits are not low maintenance pets. Care and veterinary costs are high, including spay/neutering, and vaccinating for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease.
“The cost of owning a rabbit is one of the primary reasons people resent being ‘gifted’ a live rabbit and end up abandoning it in the long run.” People thinking of getting a bunny should begin by fostering one from LARF. All supplies are provided, and vet bills are covered.
Michelle’s love and concern for rabbit welfare began 25 years ago, when she visited a local animal shelter and discovered that help and support were needed to care for the shelter rabbits. Working with other rescue groups, she then decided to be part of the House Rabbit Society and create a “safety net for rabbits adopted out.” As an educator, she then formed her own chapter, and in 2006, L.A. Rabbit Foundation was born. This enabled her to solicit donations and support from the public.
Michelle tells me that once neutered, rabbits can be easily litter box-trained and make excellent companion animals in the home. She shares that rabbits are better-suited pets for adults than for young children.
My exotics veterinarian gave “Bun Bun” a clean bill of health, and we decided to keep her. Watching and listening to her chow down on fresh greens is adorable. We saved her life, and she is a welcome addition to our pet family. After she is spayed and vaccinated, we hope she will settle in and know she is wanted and loved.
Easter is a lovely Spring holiday, but please be informed before acquiring a bunny to ensure you are able, capable, and willing to care for your new pet for up to 12 years. Michelle adds, “If you absolutely cannot keep your rabbits, you must make every effort to find them humane homes by contacting rabbit rescues first, and if full, then take them to public animal shelters.” LARF lists rabbits up for adoption on their website when owners cannot or do not want to keep them. If you would like to help the rabbits, and foster, donate, or volunteer, please visit: larabbits.org, or email:email@example.com.
By Pamela Lawrence