It's this time of year, around Easter, that families think about getting a cute and cuddly bunny for a young child as a family pet. It’s great for a while, but after a few months, many of cute little bunnies turn into big unwanted rabbits and they often end up in shelters.
And—just before they are euthanized—they are often rescued by BunnyLuv.
“Easter is a terrible time for bunnies,” says Jody Springborn, the health associate for the BunnyLuv Rabbit Resource Center, located in Van Nuys, Calif. a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. "People just don't know what kind of commitment it is."
The more than 130 bunnies that in the air conditioned non-descript warehouse-like area near the Van Nuys Airport were all within days, sometimes hours, of being terminated at local shelters.
Bunnies are not necessarily good for children, but they can make good pets.
“They’re not like the Walt Disney characters you see in the movies,” Jody says. “They’re cute, but they are not always cuddly. In fact, they’re very shy.”
They do like carrots, but not always—it’s like a treat. They mostly eat hay, and that can get messy. The Center is a non-profit, no-kill rabbit rescue shelter that not only cares for, but educates the public about taking care of rabbits.
“Our mission is to rescue rabbits from the municipal shelters when they are red-listed and due to be euthanized,” explains manager Kim Brinkley. “We have a lot of rabbits that all need to be adopted.”
The rabbits at the Center are not the kind you see out in the wild. In fact, domestic and wild rabbits do not breed well, and to release a domestic rabbit into the wild is simply cruel. The rabbit will not know how to find food, and fall very quickly to prey.
Kim adds, “People are not aware of the huge rabbit overpopulation problem and the plight of rabbits.”
You may think all rabbits are so cuddly and the kids will love them and be able to snuggle with them. The bunnies are so clean and well-mannered, and they’ll love to live in the backyard and are so easy to care of, and it would be great to have just one of them.
The BunnyLuv Rabbit Resource Center has a staff ready to help dispel all those myths.
“People have a lot of wrong ideas about bunnies, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be great pets,” says Jody, who has four rabbits at home, and a 14-year-old dog that doesn’t bother them.
It’s OK to have another pet, and in fact, many on the board of directors of BunnyLuv also have a dog or two at home. Certain breeds work better than others. A Greyhound, bred to hunt rabbits, may not be a good idea and Chihuahuas that tend to be hyper may make a timid rabbit more nervous.
“I have a dog at home that doesn’t even pay attention to the rabbits,” says Jody, who has four rabbits at home.
Rabbits will tear up furniture, eat wires, spray urine and drop more than 200 rabbit dropping pellets a day. They'd prefer to sit next to you rather than be picked up, they don’t like to snuggle—well most of them—and are not great with young children.
Rabbits live about nine to 12 years, can grow up to 10 to 12 pounds and eat mostly hay, with some vegetables (and not too many carrots). They do breed, well, like bunnies. A female can have a new litter every 28 days and males can start breeding after only 10 weeks of age.
You can’t just go to the Center to pick up a rabbit. There is an application process. There will be a home inspection and they will check to see if the setting is suitable.
“But we’re good about educating you about how to care and love your rabbit,” Jody says. “Come on in and talk to us about it.”
Rabbits do have personalities. Magellan is a friendly “attention hog.” Katy knows when she’s being scolded, and knows her name. Nessie thinks she’s Queen of the Universe and lets everyone know it. Andrea has been with them for a dozen years.
“They all have very distinct personalities, some are friendly, some are shy, some are mischievous,” said Jody Springborn, healthy associate and office manager. “Not many people know about us.”
BunnyLuv has been at the location for 18 years, and has been associated with the House Rabbits Society, which was founded in 1988 to educate people about rabbits as indoor pets. Indoor bunnies don’t get fleas, and cats are generally better companions to rabbits than dogs.
Rabbits are not good for outdoors in Los Angeles, because they can have a heat stroke at 85 degrees, which is many days of the year here. They should have a pen that is 4x4 feet at least, and should be adopted in pairs because they are social creatures.
“Some rabbits have the run of the whole house,” Jody says.
Rabbits can be trained to go in a litter box and they can even be trained to do tricks and learn their names. (See the attached video.)
The adoption fee is $95 per rabbit and all of them are spayed or neutered before adopted out. It generally costs $200 for boys and $300 for girl rabbits to be fixed.
“They are also considered exotic animals, so not all veterinarians take them,” Jody warns.
The Center is opened Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Mondays and Fridays. Call 818-988-4488 or go to www.bunnyluv.org.