Why Are There So Many Rabbits in Shelters?

Learn why there are so many rabbits in shelters in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Many people don't realize you can adopt a rabbit from an animal shelter. In fact, rabbits are the third most relinquished small animals in shelters across the United States. It's a pretty surprising statistic. Why has that happened? The main reason it happens is because people don't do their homework before they get a rabbit and they think that a rabbit's kinda like a dog or a cat and it's really not. A lot people think that a rabbit is a really low maintenance pet. After all, it lives in a cage, right, and doesn't have to be walked. You don't really have to do very much. In fact, rabbits take more maintenance than most dogs do. I know I myself have a dog and I spend more time taking care of my rabbits than I do taking care of my dog, even though I walk the dog, so they're not low maintenance pets. Their cages require cleaning. They require exercise, out of cage time in a well rabbit-proofed area. They require veterinary care, which a lot of people don't realize. They think, ya know, 'I don't want vet bills, so I'll just get a rabbit.' People don't realize that and the veterinary care can actually be more expensive than veterinary care for a dog or a cat because you have to go to vets who know rabbits and that are not every vet. A lot of people relinquish rabbits to shelters because they get them for children and we call these responsibility rabbits. These are rabbits that are acquired to teach a child responsibility. This is not a good way to teach a child responsibility and people find that out quickly enough because the children lose interest. The parent doesn't want to keep taking care of the rabbit and the rabbit ends up in a shelter. Very, very sad situation. People take rabbits to shelters because they are not what they thought they would be. A lot of people get the idea that rabbits are like animated stuffed toys who love to be picked up and carried around and cuddled and all that. Some rabbits will tolerate that well but most rabbits don't enjoy being carried around very much. They're ground animals. They like to feel the security of the ground under their feet and they prefer to be interacted with where their feet are on the ground. When you get a rabbit for a small child, especially, the child will want to pick the rabbit up, carry him around, cuddle him, love him, all of which are great things to develop in a child but with an animal other than a rabbit, you'd be safer. Carrying a rabbit around means that you risk dropping the rabbit. Most parents that haven't had an accident yet, will have one sooner or later if they have small children handling rabbits. They realize what can happen, they will very often bring their rabbit to a shelter center after saying, 'this isn't a good idea. We should have known this in advance.' You could go on indefinitely the reasons people give for relinquishing rabbits in shelters. Those are some. Another big one. We have some hanky panky going on here. Another big one is that people say that they're allergic to rabbits. They don't realize that you can be allergic to rabbits as you can be allergic to dogs and cats. If that's an issue with you at home. You have pet allergies; it's a really good idea to visit a shelter or a pet organization before you acquire a rabbit so you don't end up in a situation of feeling you have to give your rabbit to a shelter because somebody in your family has a serious allergy or asthma. All these considerations come into play before you acquire a rabbit so that the rabbit doesn't end up in a shelter after you acquire them.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.