February is not only the month of love, but it’s also Adopt a Rabbit Month. If you think rabbits don’t need rescue, a 2012 study by a pair of researchers with the University of Guelph in Canada might cause you to think again. Shelter intake and adoption numbers were tracked at four shelters in Massachusetts and Rhode Island from 2005-2010, and revealed that rabbits and birds competed for the dubious honor of being the third most frequently surrendered animal.
Why are rabbits finding themselves in shelters? The researchers discovered that 77% of the rabbits were owner surrenders. However, unlike with dogs, behavior wasn’t the top cited reason. Instead, rabbits were surrendered because owners had stopped having the ability or interest to care for them. Other outstanding reasons for relinquishment were being forbidden by a landlord to have them or owning too many rabbits.
The Rabbit House Society states that thousands of bunnies will be impulse purchases every Easter. Buyers simply don’t have any idea of the amount of care that rabbits need. In the holiday’s aftermath, shelters are deluged by unwanted bunnies, and often have no option but to euthanize them. The Rabbit House Society also says that some rabbits don’t even make it to a shelter but are “simply dumped in the streets, left in parks, or in other people’s yards”. Because these rabbits weren’t born in the wild, they’re unable to care for themselves and are likely to be injured, become ill, or even be killed before reaching a shelter.
The Rabbit Haven stresses that a pet rabbit is NOT a toy. It suggests that if people want to buy a rabbit, they should start by buying a plush toy or by sponsoring a rabbit in a shelter. For those who educate themselves about the needs of rabbits, there are plenty of rabbits available for adoption. The 2012 study noted in the first paragraph that while rabbits had a 23% euthanasia rate, adoption rates for them were higher when local foster groups were used to help care for the rabbits.
PetFinder offers these reasons to adopt a rabbit:
- Many people who are allergic to dogs and cats are not allergic to rabbits.
- Rabbit schedules match up with people schedules. In other words, they’re most active at dawn and dusk, which is when most people are starting their day or getting home from work.
- Rabbits make great pets for city dwellers. They happily stay in large cages during the day when their owners are gone but also enjoy coming out of their cages to romp when their owners are home.
- Rabbits are perfect pets for those who don’t have time for daily walks, but still seek the social quality of a dog-like companion.
- Rabbits will encourage healthy eating habits. Because rabbits are herbivores, they encourage the stocking up of fruits and vegetables.
- Rabbits have long lifespans compared to other small animals. They can live 10-12 years.
- Rabbits are funny to watch. Some of their more amusing antics include the hop-spins and kicks they make and the bunny flops they make that let them play dead.
- Rabbits can make great listeners. Some them also love to snuggle.
- Rabbits are heroic. Just like their counterparts in the wild, many house bunnies will communicate when they perceive dangers by thumping their back legs.
- Rabbits need homes too. There are more than 5,500 listed for adoption on Petfinder alone!
I have personally never owned a rabbit, but I do treasure my years of being a guinea-pig owner. If you are considering adding a rabbit to your family, what better time than Adopt A Rescued Rabbit Month? You might just end up finding that you’re no bunny until some bunny loves you. 😉