With Easter just days away, and a tradition of gift giving around this time of year, the BC SPCA urges the public to not buy bunnies as Easter gifts.
Craig Naherniak, general manager of humane education for the BC SPCA, says it may come as a surprise that rabbits and children are not a great match.
"Rabbits are great companions for adults, but are not appropriate pets for small children despite the pervasive media images of children with rabbits," he says. “They don’t like to be picked up, as they are prey animals and picking them up distresses them. Like any pet, they require proper care and can live up to 12 years.”
Each year SPCA branches across the province receive hundreds of abandoned bunnies after the holiday has passed and the excitement of a new pet has worn off and the reality of pet care sets in.
“The animals who are turned in at SPCA shelters are the lucky ones,” says Naherniak. “Many others are abandoned to the wild to fend for themselves. “These domesticated rabbits often fall prey to predators such as coyotes, are susceptible to disease, or end up starving.” Alternatively, he says, if there are no predators the rabbits may flourish and upset the balance of nature by multiplying into a serious overpopulation problem.
People who are prepared and willing to make a commitment to a pet rabbit should learn about what caring for this unique and wonderful animal involves. Rabbits sleep during the day, need fresh vegetables, Timothy hay, and pellets to stay healthy, and should also be spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted litters and to reduce territorial aggression.
Like cats, rabbits can easily be trained to use a litter box, which means they can be free-roaming rather than caged. They also need exercise, daily grooming, and a varied diet that includes chew items that will keep the rabbit's constantly growing teeth worn down. They should be housed indoors, which means guardians must rabbit-proof their home, which includes concealing exposed electrical cords and providing enough safe, chewable toys so the rabbit won't be tempted to chew on other items, such as furniture and books. The total cost for food, bedding, and other necessities will run $3,000 to $4,000 over the animal's lifetime.
So if you can go the distance, adopt a bunny. But be honest with yourself — the plush or chocolate kind will give a lot of pleasure to your children or significant other and is the kinder and more responsible choice, both for you and the animal.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.