May 23-29 is Rabbit Awareness Week sponsored by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund. The purpose of Rabbit Awareness Week is to help educate the public about basic rabbit welfare needs.
According to a recent study, 75% of pet rabbits in the U.K. are badly cared for and commonly misunderstood by the people who own them. In the U.S., rabbits are the third most frequently surrendered pet at animal shelters.
“We actually notice that more rabbits are dropped at the shelter three times in the year,” said Denise Schram, rabbit volunteer for the Animal Rescue League of Western PA. “The first is right before Easter. The second time is [summer] vacation and back to school. The third is October and November right before the holidays. “
Rabbits Wranglers is a nonprofit rabbit rescue founded in 2003 to help local Pittsburgh animal shelters establish a rabbit program. Since that time, the organization has been rescuing and caring for rabbits, as well as helping individuals provide proper care for their own rabbits.
According to Rabbit Wranglers, there are nearly 150 homeless rabbits currently in local animal shelters. These shelters are at capacity, but owner surrenders continue to rise.
Rabbits are a very different companion animal from dogs and cats, requiring a different kind of care. Many people who bring a rabbit into their home are not aware of the time or expense involved in properly caring for a rabbit, and they are quick to rid themselves these animals.
“The average age for our bunnies is 12-18 months,” states Schram. “Unfortunately, most people buy a bunny at a pet store for $30 and do not want to pay $200 to have it fixed. Once they start spraying and the hormones kick in, people don’t want them anymore. “
Rabbits are mistakenly sold at “starter pets” for children by many pet stores. However, rabbits do not do well with small children because they not like to be held and prefer a quiet setting. Older children and adults are more appropriate rabbit owners.
In addition, rabbits are frequently sold with cages that are not big enough for them to stand up, lie down, stretch out or move around. Rabbits need both a sleeping area and exercise area that is large enough to accommodate their normal behavior. Rabbits can also be litter trained, like cats, so they can free-roaming.
A rabbit can be a wonderful companion for someone who is willing to learn about their special needs. All Pittsburgh animal shelters have experienced rabbit volunteers to help you select your special bunny friend. For more information, contact Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League or Western PA Humane Society.
Rabbit Wranglers will be featured in a segment on WQED’s Pittsburgh 360 on May 26 at 7:30p.m.
Contact Vicki Cook at [email protected], follow her on twitter or like Pittsburgh Animal Rescue Examiner on facebook.