Easter is just around the corner, and with it comes family gatherings, chocolate, Easter egg hunts and gifts. It’s also a time of year when local animal rescue groups brace for the impact of thousands of people buying bunnies as gifts for children. Tragically, many of the rabbits are abandoned in the weeks after Easter, once families begin to realize that caring for a rabbit is a major commitment. We break down why giving a bunny as a gift is a terrible idea.
1. Companion animals should never be bought or adopted on impulse
Rabbits are incredible animals, but there are many questions to consider and prepare for before bringing a rabbit into the family. Many families aren’t prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership, and the joy of a new rabbit can quickly wear off. A rabbit’s lifespan is 8-12 years, and if a family loses interest, the bunny could suffer years of neglect. Rabbits are sensitive animals, and don’t make good pets for small children. A child’s enthusiasm and handling can be stressful for rabbits or even injure them. Rather than viewing rabbits and other pets as consumer items, it’s important to understand that they are individuals.
2. Rabbits have complex needs
Caring properly for a rabbit can be complex. Rabbits are high-maintenance pets with many specific physical and emotional needs. Rabbits may suffer from boredom and depression if they are kept in cages, so they need many hours of free-roaming time and mental stimulation every day in a spacious, rabbit-proof area. If an area isn’t rabbit-proofed, rabbits may chew items. Rabbits also require a diet rich in hay and fresh vegetables.
3. Many rabbits bought for Easter will end up dead or abandoned before their first birthday
Tragically, it’s all too common for people to dispose of rabbits once the responsibility of their care sets in and the excitement of Easter weekend wears off. Many rabbits will be brought to animal shelters, end up confined in outdoor hutches, or simply be abandoned. Bunnies who are released into the wild usually die from starvation, the elements or from predators.
4. Buying from pet stores supports bunny mills
Just like in puppy mills, bunnies are often bred in large facilities where their welfare is not respected. Bunny mills force rabbits to live their entire lives as breeding machines confined in cages, with no ability to roam, enjoy being with their families, or perform natural behaviours.
Babies are often taken from their mothers too early, at only a few weeks of age, because they look cute and take up less space in pet stores.
Meanwhile, shelters are overflowing with loving animals, including rabbits, who need forever homes. Purchasing rabbits from pet stores and breeders condemns rabbits in shelters and rescues to death, increasing euthanasia rates of healthy, adoptable pets.
Try these alternatives instead
Who doesn’t like chocolate, especially over Easter? Try gifting a plush toy or a dairy-free chocolate Easter bunny!
Bring your child to an animal sanctuary or volunteer at an animal shelter with them. These are great places to interact with animals, to teach children about different animals, and how to properly care for and respect them as individuals, not consumer items.