Rabbits And Children

My rabbit grooming business has taken off and I have been visiting a lot of families in my area who have pet rabbits that need their toe nails trimmed. I love meeting lots of new bunnies who are deeply loved by their families and it gives me a chance to impart some education on them about their pet.

Over half the time I meet a new bun, he is the pet of some young girl and they often know next to nothing about rabbits. I am encouraged when I see mom or dad take an interest in the education I am trying to leave with them, but it is unsettling to say the least to know that a eight or nine year old child is responsible for most of the care for their rabbit.

I often see that their play area has not been bunny-proofed or that the rabbit is living on pine shavings or in a too small cage. I do my best to teach some basics and hope that they correct the most serious problems that I warn them about. Time will only tell as I return to some of these homes in a while for more nail trims.

It is awesome that in about half of the families, the parents take a very active role in raising and caring for their pet rabbits. Unfortunately, there is a very large percentage of them where it is completely up to the child what happens to that poor bun. Small cages and 100 percent pellet diets are the norm for these guys. I don’t get to see too many of these, because if they will not spend money on good food and a nice abode for their bunnies, they usually are not spending $50 for me to come groom and trim their bunny’s nails. I like to think that the folks who do pay me to come see them that do this are doing it out of ignorance, not meanness or being bad people.

Rabbits with their hollow bones and fragile backs are so easy for kids to injure, especially when they don’t realize this fact. If parents knew how many bunnies are injured every year by young children, they would think twice about handing one over to their kid (one would hope).

Even more important, rabbits are very sensitive to their environment and hide the fact that they are sick from us humans. A child is never going to be sensitive to these issues and will not associate changes in behavior to the bunny being sick or hurt. It takes an adult who is knowledgeable about bunnies to do these things.

Many people think that rabbits are good for children because they only live four or five years, when in reality they will live 10-15 years if properly cared for. If you want a pet who only lives two or three years, then you should be thinking about a hamster or gerbil, but rabbits are a decade long commitment.

If you take all of these things into consideration, on top of the fact that rabbit vet bills are about three times as much as those for dogs and cats, they may not be the right pet for a lot of families, especially those with younger children. Many families take on the commitment with the knowledge that their bunnies are a long term commitment. They understand that they are rather high maintenance and expensive due to their being exotic pets. I have no problem with that, but it is the people to impulsively get these pets for their kids without thinking all of this through.

A child cannot be solely responsible for an expensive high maintenance pet, simple as that. Any rational adult could understand this fact. Who is going to write the check for the huge vet bill when the bunny inevitably needs a vet visit. Who is going to purchase the variety of fresh greens for the bunny’s diet. Who is going to make sure that there is always a supply of fresh hay and water for him, too. Of course, this is the adults.

I like seeing families teach the value of the human animal bond to their children and the gentle exciting spirit of a rabbit is a great way to do that, but we need to make sure that we are truly teaching them the right lesson. Allowing them to hurt or be irresponsible so that a living creature suffers or cannot live to his full potential, is wrong and they are not getting the right lesson in life.

Can I Help You?

It is a good morning that I don’t wake up to one or two panicked emails from bunny owners who have rabbits who are dying and they are seeking advice from me. Don’t get me wrong, I want to help people all I can, especially rabbits in dire need. It is just very hard to not think about some poor defenseless bunny at the mercy of someone thousands of miles away who may or may not take my advice.

Most often, I have to tell them to simply find and take their bunny to a rabbit specialist vet. Almost always, they have never visited a vet before and most certainly not a rabbit specialist. I know that many areas are not blessed with a plethora of vets who are trained to work with rabbits, but part of having a pet bunny is at least knowing where the nearest vet is located, should you ever need to see him in an emergency. When minutes count, do you want to spend a few hours trying to found out where it is you will have to go with your bunny.

The harsh reality is that every day a pet bunny somewhere gets in trouble and needs help from his human. Often, whether or not the little guy survives depends on how long before the owner notices that something is wrong and how he reacts. Our reaction will usually depend on the knowledge that we have about bunnies and the resources available at the time. Many rabbit vets do not work on weekends and so what do you do if your bunny is in distress late Saturday night? I have had this happen several times, myself.

If you are reading this blog, then you obviously have the internet available and that can be a wonderful thing. There is a wealth of information on tap there, but beware of some advice you may find. Finding a factoid posted more than once does not mean that much, since often the same misinformation has been copied and pasted from one website to another. Still, most of the time you will be getting good information, which in an emergency can be better than nothing.

Understanding that being desperate for some answers about what to do in an emergency leads to me receiving dozens of letters each week from distressed bunny lovers about their pets. Often, I can respond that most likely there is nothing to worry about, such as the myriad of emails I get from people the first time their bunny does some bright red or orange pee (I probably get that one once a week… haha). Other times I lose sleep worrying about the fate of some bunny whom I am sure was barely hanging on when their owner wrote me. With the popularity of Facebook amongst bunny lovers these days, I get even more amazing communications.

It is a good thing, since it means that we are slowly getting our message of rabbit education out there to the public, but it is also a double edged sword. When you put yourself out there like I do, you get lots of the horrible “dead bunny” stories, too. It is hard not to think about some of them and usually after my reply, I rarely hear back from the person about what happened. When I do, it is never good news, so it is one of those “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situations.

Really, the only way that hundreds of rabbits are not going to continue to die every day from the “stupid owner syndrome” (don’t worry, we have all had it) is to educate the masses. When it becomes common knowledge how to properly keep a pet rabbit, most of these saddening emails will stop. Stories like my neighbor’s dog just ate my rabbit to my rabbit stopped eating two days ago are virtually all from lack of common knowledge. With rabbits, a little prevention goes a long way to avoiding these kind of sad stories.

So go ahead and please do write me or post in my blog. I will do what I can to help you and possibly even help you save your bunny, but please don’t wait until it is too late and your bunny is on death’s doorstep to do so. I am here to help you.

The Bunny Guy

Affording Medical Care For My Bunny

I am going to be brutally blunt here, right off the bat. If you cannot afford or are unwilling to pay for emergency medical care for your rabbit(s), then you probably should not have one.

Rabbit vet care can be very expensive. It is just as pricey or even more so than vet care for a dog or cat. People routinely are faced with $1000+ bills when a bunny gets sick and needs medical care. It is not a matter of “if” you will get one of these bills when owning a rabbit, but simply “when”.

As with all creatures, the older you get, the more you will need to see a medical professional.  Because rabbits are exotic pets, they will need to see a specialist. Dog and cat vets simply do not have the expertise or knowledge to treat your sick rabbit.

Do you want your doctor looking up how to treat a serious illness on the internet before he treats you. It does not instill confidence or give you much hope when you know that your doctor is treating or seeing a medical problem for the very first time.

A rabbit specialist is critical for your pet’s survival, when he is seriously ill. If you care about your pet, you want to give him the best chance at making it and so it means you must use a more expensive rabbit specialist vet to provide the best care possible.

After having lost a couple bunnies to dog and cat vets, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a rabbit specialist vet available when your bunny needs one. This is definitely going to cost you something and bearing the expense is part of being a responsible pet owner.

Would you not take your children to a doctor or dentist if they were sick or in pain? Would you not find a way to get them care, even if you could not afford it? It is the same for pets.

You must find a way to get the proper care to a sick animal, regardless of the cost and whether you have the funds readily available. IF this means putting it on a credit card or finding a friend to let you put it on their credit card, it just needs to be done. You don’t hesitate and let someone die because it is not convenient or affordable for them to live.

What defines us as a society and as human beings is our reluctance to accept and allow others to suffer. To turn your back on an animal or other creature that needs your help, makes you less human. To be human is to empathize and feel the pain that others feel. It is part of what we are as a species.

So I get back to my point. You have a responsibility as a pet owner to provide good and proper care for your charges and do all in your power to prevent abuse and suffering.

This translates into a huge weight that must be shouldered when you have several pets and maybe even some human children, too. I have met many families who have several children and a house full of pets on top of that. Most of them are very responsible and provide very well for them. What worries me is when I hear people making excuses about avoiding expenses and vet care that they know are necessary.

The bottom line is if you cannot afford five or six kids, two dogs, three cats and two bunnies, then what in the heck are doing getting in over your head like that? I know it is with good intentions that we take on such huge responsibilities, but why burden you and your family with what you know eventually will become unbearable? It is only a matter of time before a menagerie like that will become very expensive.

Should you really be taking on that third dog, that sixth bunny, that tenth cat. Some of us try and rescue every critter that needs our help, but I can tell you from experience that rescue work can easily become a full time job. It takes a lot of dedication to have a full time rescue job, especially if you have a family, too. All the work and time are nothing compared to the expense that can be incurred, regularly. I have seen more than one family go broke trying to rescue animals. This is why rescue is best done in a group where the time, expense and responsibility can be shared. I know that there is a fine line between rescue and hoarding pets.

To me, when your “rescues” are being harmed by your inability to provide proper care, including medical care, then you have crossed the line.

I recently met a family who has spent an enormous sum of money to spay and neuter a large unexpected litter of bunnies. Even with discount services and HRS rebates, their expense for this stretched the family budget to the limit. They were trying their best to cope with ten bunnies that were now part of their family, but it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The number of times your bunnies will visit a vet seem to be directly related to the level of experience you have as a bunny lover. The less you know about bunnies, the more often you make mistakes and the more likely you will be making frequent vet visits. I always tell people that it is a long journey to learn about rabbits. It takes time and you will make mistakes.

Now multiply this inexperience factor by ten rabbits and it is almost guaranteed that there will be more vet bills to follow. This is where you must make a decision. How do you afford the inevitable vet bills for so many bunnies? If you are independently wealthy or make a lot of money, that is good, but what about the average person? How do you afford so many rabbits?

There are pet medical insurance policies but they can be impractical, since they charge by the animal. Five or six animals would end up getting expensive with just the monthly premiums, alone.

Anecdotally, the family with ten rabbits suddenly found that half of their buns were very sick. They were in dire need of a vet, but now they are seeing an impending vet bill TIMES FIVE! They were already strapped for money from spaying and neutering all of those rabbits. To save money, they wanted to take one bunny in to the vet and hope that they could get enough medications to treat all five. I am not saying that was not a well intentioned plan, but how do you decide which bunny gets to see a doctor and which ones will not? Do you see where I am going with this?

This is where you have to ask yourself, is ten rabbits too many for a family who cannot afford them? I cannot answer that for them, but I know that the answer for me is, yes.

The Bunny Guy

Are We Activists?

It has taken me a few days to gather my thoughts so that I could write this blog. I became aware of a big rabbit rescue case back east by reading some posts on my Facebook timeline.

There was a person who is very well known in the rabbit breeder and show world who was reported to the local Humane Society. This was purportedly done by member of the House Rabbit Society.

When the local authorities went to his property, they confiscated 375 rabbits. Rabbits were this man’s world. When you have that many rabbits, you must eat, breathe and sleep with bunnies.

Some say that the conditions that the buns were living in was not humane and so the man was charged with a crime. In my study on this case, I read the comments from many people who had seen the videos of the conditions from the news reports. They said that the operation was a typical rabbitry and no worse than any other.

I personally have not viewed the video, but I am convinced that this is probably true. I have worked in rabbit shelters for years and know that taking care of just 30-40 rabbits is a full time job. You can spend hours cleans and trying to care for them and as soon as you are done, it is dirty again. It is a never ending job.

Having witnessed a couple rabbit breeding operations, they are not usually kept as clean or nice as we do at a shelter. Rabbits are housed in wire bottom cages to simplify the job for the owner (farmer). The waste just falls through the bottom of the cages into some kind of collection system.

Since the rabbits are not spayed or neutered, there is a lot of spraying by the males going on. They squirt their pee all over the place, like most un-neutered males do, and so there are usually splash guards in place to minimize the effect. Still, it is a huge job to keep the urine spray under control. The caustic bunny pee really eats up and stains anything it touches.

This all creates a relatively dirty environment when you have over a hundred bunnies living in one area. Even if you were cleaning it up all the time it would never be spotless, because by the time you got it half done, the bunnies would have peed and pooped it up again. haha

I am not trying to justify any of the conditions these bunnies were living in. I am simply stating that in all probability, this operation was no better or worse than most other legal rabbit breeding businesses.

It was very enlightening to read and digest the messages by the supporters of this very popular person who was incarcerated in the story. Their take on the whole matter was that a bunch of “rabbit activists” had started all of this.

As the drama played out on Facebook, I realized that there were many more of the rabbit breeders and hobbyists who showed and bred rabbits, than House Rabbit advocates. They viewed our ideas as fringe and wacky, because rabbits are livestock.

I read comments like, “We don’t understand why all those west coast shelters are overloaded with bunnies. When we have too many rabbits we just put them in the freezer.”

Others said, “Sure, people have pet cows and pet pigs, but if you let them live in your house with you, then you deserve the destruction that you get from it. It’s their business if they want to let rabbits chew up and destroy everything in their houses.”

So what we have here is an animal who is caught between two completely different worlds. On one hand, we have the majority of people who think that rabbits are livestock and on the other we have the people who think bunnies are nice pets.

Most of the people who consider bunnies as pets, do not think that they should be treated as livestock. To people who associate them with agriculture and eat them, that position is extreme.

Should people be allowed to farm or breed rabbits at all? I don’t think that anyone who eats beef, pork or any other farmed meat can honestly say no. This is why many rabbit lovers are vegetarian or vegan.

My opinion is that we already have it both ways, so we need laws recognizing the duality. There are millions of rabbits who live in farm conditions and thousands more who live as beloved pets. In California, they are solely livestock in the eyes of the law. This validates the position of the masses that rabbits are meant to live outdoors in miserable conditions destined for a horrible death at the whim of his owners.

Yet millions of people are slowly learning the joys of having a companion rabbit. As their popularity grows as pets, so does the glaring conflict for rabbits: pets vs livestock.

You cannot have a rabbit and call him a pet, then treat him as if he were livestock. The biggest problem I run into trying to educate people is teaching them this difference. A rabbit who lives in a cage in the back yard just eating pellets is not a pet. Pets live with you and you share the enjoyment of the human/animal bond. Otherwise, what is the point?

Will the “activism” or advocating for rabbits stop people from farming animals? I truly doubt it. I believe that vegetarians will always be a minority and that there will always be farms. Still I see a march towards more humane treatment for all animals, because public awareness has demanded it.

We have recently seen Europe ban all animal testing and California enact laws to require some livestock be kept in more acceptable conditions. I think the idea is that suffering is not meant to be part of the equation, regardless of whether you plan on eating the critter or not.

The USA recently shamed itself in the eyes of the world by allowing Congress to pass a law to make it a federal crime to secretly video the conditions at factory farms and processing centers. This means that regardless of the laws, there will be no whistle blowers or anyone to enforce them. This is our powerful agricultural lobby flexing it’s muscle against this new demand by the public for less suffering of the animals caught up in the food chain.

For a rabbit, his lot in life is solely dependent on whether he was born by a breeder at a farm or a breeder who sells to pet stores. One will live about six months and be killed and the other has a chance to live a happy long life of 10+ years with a family. I have always said that if you are a rabbit and live in my house that you have hit the lottery. haha

My bunnies are so spoiled. I love spoiling them. I volunteer at shelters and donate to rescues because I believe that there is a place for rabbits as pets in our lives. They are more than just livestock. If this makes me an activist, then I guess I am.

The Bunny Guy

No Such Thing As A Pet Rabbit?

I was informed this week that an event that I have attended as an educator for the past three years would not allow us to bring our bunnies this year. The Paw-In-The-Park held in Escondido is put on by the Escondido Humane Society and numerous sponsors. When the permits for the event were issued, it was stipulated that ONLY dogs would be allowed. We were basically told that our rabbits would not be welcome, even though they had done this many times before.

It reminded me of something that happened last summer. I have a group of friends who like to go out to dinner with our rabbits each week. We call it “Bunny Night Out”. Often, we just go to a local street fair and eat the street food, but during the summer it gets too crowded to push the buns in their strollers. During these times, we will all meet at a restaurant with a “dog friendly” outdoor patio.

Our favorite was a Japanese place that we had all been to many times before. One day after we had all ordered, the manager came up and told us we would have to leave. It appears that a complaint was made to the CA Health Dept. about our previous visit. This prompted a visit by a Health Inspector who informed the restaurant that they would be fined if we were allowed to return.

Not to get into the mental state of a person who would make such a complaint, my point is that while dogs are considered pets and therefore welcomed on pet-friendly patios, rabbits are still classified as “livestock” in the state of California. This was a technical violation of Health Codes that forbid “livestock” in dining areas.

These recent examples are just my personal experiences in the past year. Multiply this across the tens of thousands of people who have pet rabbits in California and we now have a much larger issue. It is time that we re-classify pet bunnies to be what they truly are… companion animals, no different than a pet cat or dog.

We are fighting a major battle trying to educate the public about how to properly care for and house their pet bunnies, but when the government is institutionalizing all the wrong ideas and myths, it is part of a much deeper problem.

It makes our job of educating people a lot harder, when even the government does not recognize our pets as such. It creates skepticism and even worse, resistance to our ideas. I have heard people I meet in the public rationalize that rabbits do not deserve a better life because they are not truly meant to be pets and belong on the farm (or dinner table).

I have not even heard of any kind of movement in California to change these laws. I am certain that any attempt at change would be met with stiff resistance by the farmer’s unions and lobbies. That is why I think that the best compromise would be to create a dual classification. At least it would acknowledge that many thousands of rabbits who are pets in homes across California exist and that is a good start.


The Bunny Guy

Are We There Yet?

I often ask myself if we will see any real difference for pet rabbits in my lifetime. While we have come a long way from all rabbits living in horrible backyard hutches, there are still a significant number who still do. In my estimation from talking to the public during my educational efforts, between 80 and 90 percent still do.

We have had some change since 40 years ago, when all rabbits lived in hutches or cages, to a point where a small percentage now live indoors as pets. There is a trend for more young families to try a pet rabbit as a family pet. This is a problem because taking care of a rabbit is not intuitive. Unless someone teaches you how to correctly do it, most people will do almost everything wrong and have little success at basics, such as litter box training or preventing rabbits from chewing on stuff (they are prolific chewers).

If you were raised with dogs or cats and your only exposure to pet bunnies were the ones that your neighbor kept in a hutch in their backyard, then it is hard to know that they are supposed to eat hay, not big hoppers of rabbit pellet food. It is also not commonly known that pet rabbits need to see a rabbit specialist vets, not your regular dog or cat veterinarian. I recently had a friend who took her sick pet bunny to her dog and cat vet for a common rabbit ailment. He had her put the little guy to sleep for a problem that most of the time can be treated and cured by a rabbit savvy vet. You do not want to have your vet looking up how to treat your bunny on the internet, when it is a matter of life or death (which is what this vet did).

Probably the biggest reason I have become a rabbit educator is that housing, feeding and caring for a pet bunny needs to become common knowledge, just like how to feed, walk and pet a dog or cat. You cannot learn the proper ways to do things by the “seat of your pants”. I have met people who have had pet bunnies for decades who did not know basic things about them, such as that they eat all of their food twice. Knowing these things about your pet rabbit is important to understanding how to provide optimal care, especially when it comes to feeding and socializing with your “buddies”.

Another common misconception that has been slow to change is that people think rabbits do not need to be spayed or neutered. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. In order to have a successful relationship with a “house rabbit”, it is essential that they are spay/neutered, ASAP. I would never consider having a pet rabbit who was not, because of the many bad behaviors and problems that usually result. More than four out of five female rabbits who are not spayed will end up getting cancer or tumors by the time they are four years old. Yet, I find that at least 80 percent of female pet rabbits are not spayed, and never will be (or live to be).

How do we get the public to become aware that rabbits are not disposable pets and more than a cheap critter that you buy at a swap meet to put in a small cheap cage in your back yard or garage? I think most people would not do that to a dog or cat (although, I know there are people who do, because I have met them). The number of people who do know how to properly care for a pet rabbit has been slowly growing, due to efforts to educate the public and get the word out, but we have decades of work left to do.

The more people we get talking about this, the closer it brings us to that critical mass where it becomes common knowledge. I hope that if you agree with me, that you will take some of your precious time to support your local shelter or rabbit rescue in their educational efforts. The more we put it out there, the more it will richochet and reach more of the public.

Become an advocate for rabbits!

The Bunny Guy

The Difference Between Pet Rabbits & Farm Rabbits

This is a heated question among people who love rabbits as pets and those who raise them for profit. It becomes a very charged issue that radically divides the two kinds of people who keep bunnies.

I do not think anyone would argue that the bunnies who are farmed and those who are kept as pets are the same exact creature. One simply had the misfortune of being born as fodder for humans and the other was born into a world where he/she was thought of as a pet.

It amazes me the total dichotomy between the two. I think that regardless of which side of the fence you are sitting, you have to admit that it is perfectly OK for people to keep domestic rabbits as pets. Most people do not realize the smart and interactive pet that a bunny is, when kept indoors with the family. A half million rabbit lovers cannot all be crazy.

Rabbits are clearly the third most popular pet nationwide, after dogs and cats (as evidence they are also the third most euthanized animal in shelters). While their percentage of the pet market remains small, it is growing fast.

The problem arises when as in California, where pet rabbits are still classified as livestock, just as the bunnies raised for meat on a farm. Certainly, our society affords life without abuse or torture to all animals and most of all animals kept as pets. I think most people would agree that to cause an animal to suffer needlessly, whether you were going to eat it or not, is not something we want to condone as a society.

We have made it known through our modern laws exactly what animal abuse is. Unfortunately, most of these statues applies mostly to dogs. They may not be tied to a tree or kept inside a too small cage or crate all day. Why is it OK to put a bunny inside a tiny cage 24/7? Is it just because he is still considered livestock? Does that make it OK, especially in light of the fact that bunnies were literally born to run and hop? How could a rabbit not be frustrated and unhappy unable to do the one thing that he was meant to do?

As our country becomes more and more urban, the number of rabbits living on a farm is dwindling. Where as virtually all rabbits raised 50 or 100 years ago were meant to be eaten, now a very large percentage of them are pets from birth. The trend is for the number of lagomorph pets to increase and the number on farms is going down. It is time for a shift in the public attitude.

Since rabbits are still considered “livestock” in our state, it does not have the same requirement that they be spayed/neutered before being adopted out of a Humane Society or shelter, like dogs or cats do. This is ludicrous. Thankfully our local chapter of the House Rabbit Society insures that every rabbit being adopted at every shelter is done. This is not always the case in other areas.

Our leaders need to establish a clear line between farm livestock and our beloved pets. Humane treatment for rabbits is currently laughed at by many parts of the public. That needs to change.

My personal opinion,
The Bunny Guy

Our Government Needs To Act

I work at two local shelters with the rabbits, but I recently became aware that one of the shelters that I volunteer at now has over 600 cats for adoption. This is insane!

Being a registered Libertarian for over 35 years, I am against over-regulation by our government, but I believe that in this case the problem needs to be addressed by them.

When we have way more cats available for adoption than there probably are in all the pets stores in the county, why are we allowing pet stores and breeders to continue to add to the population? Breeders and pet stores for the most part are completely unregulated and I feel that they add to a huge problem in our society.

Tens of thousands of animals are put to sleep every year, while we allow breeders to replace them as fast as they are euthanized. I feel the cost to the public is much more than these “businesses” profit from their adding to the problem.

The few thousands dollars a year that a pet store or breeder makes from selling animals is overshadowed by the cost to our society, in dollars and more. The pet store down the street from my house which was recently raided and closed by the local Humane Society put more than 50 animals into their custody. The store never had very much business and I am sure the paltry profit that they made from their business venture is nothing compared to how much our local shelter will now spend to spay/neuter, provide medical care and house until they become adopted.

The problem is that most of these companies must simply obtain a local business license and they are in business. There are no inspections for for them to ferret out abuse or the horrible living conditions that most of their animals live in. We hear about stories in the news all the time about puppy mills and pet stores being found to have animals living in terrible conditions. I think that this is probably the case for all animals sold in pet shops, not just dogs.

I think that at the very least, these businesses should have to obtain licenses for what they do, just as any other contractor would have to do. Standards could then be enforced through regular inspections and also the numbers that are bred can also be addressed.

When you have 600+ cats in just one local shelter, there is no real reason for more kittens to be bred and sold in the stores. Yet, that is exactly what is happening here in my city right now. I am sure it is the same where you live.

This also applies to rabbits. We have 4-H groups all around this area who are involved in breeding hundreds of rabbits a year, when we have some bunnies who have been sitting in our shelter who have been there for close to 2 years. I can say without reservation that I am sure some of these very bunnies were bred by 4-H people.

Why isn’t the 4-H teaching our children about RESPONSIBLE breeding, where every animal that you produce has a purpose and a home? I know there is a need for this organization in areas where most people work on farms, but here in our city there is not a farm for dozens of miles. The chances of one of these 4-H kids working or living on a farm is slim and none. Shouldn’t we be teaching them to be helping solve this problem of animal over-population, instead of how to add to the problem?

Personally, I would like to see animals being sold in pet stores in only special and tightly controlled situations. I think that anyone that makes more than a certain amount of money from animal breeding needs to have a license and be subject to inspection. There was recently a bill in front of our California legislature to license and inspect all dog groomers. If we can consider this for groomers, why not for breeders? Animal breeders incur a much higher cost on our society than a wayward dog groomer.

I believe that if we were to assess how much money is made from these businesses and then track how much it costs the public in shelter costs, over-population and money spent on these problems, we would find that the expense is much more than the profit.

Our government representatives seem to be on the side of the businesses, but not the public on this issue. We should tell our local representatives that we want steps taken to reel in these pet stores and animal breeders who are currently running amok.

Our local PetCos and PetSmarts no longer sell dogs, cats or rabbits because the public has convinced them that it is a bad idea. They have done this voluntarily, but it should be the law. If we are going to ever solve the pet over-population problem, this very key facet of it must be addressed. Tell your local congressman!
The Bunny Guy

Gimmee Shelter

I had a person come up to me the other day and ask me what their friends should do with a rabbit that is living inside a cage in their garage. My answer was easy, “Take him to the local shelter and relinquish him so that he can get a nice new home with someone who cares about him”.

Their response was, “Isn’t there a petting zoo around somewhere”?

This implied that it would be better to dump the bunny at a zoo or even set him free, but anything would be better than taking the rabbit to the shelter. Really?

I work at a couple of local shelters and it is true that they sometimes euthanize rabbits there. Thankfully, the days of putting bunnies to sleep because there is no room for them in the shelter are not as common as they used to be. Still, rabbits occasionally do get put down for illness or behavior issues because shelters do not have the resources to spend on their medical care and there are still some antiquated rules about animals that bite, but this happens for less than one percent of the buns that are admitted to the shelter.

What do you think the odds of dying are for a rabbit that is released into the wild? My guess would be that it is less than 50-50 that the animal survives a year. Isn’t that a more sure of a death sentence than the one in a hundred chance of a bad outcome at the shelter?

I know that shelters have gotten a bad rap with the public because they admittedly do euthanize some of the animals that come to them, but the public is more to blame for that than the shelters are, in my opinion. Why do people continue to purchase pets from the malls and local pet stores instead of giving homes to animals in the shelters and those living with rescue groups? I personally think that most people do not give consideration to the fact that when they do this, they are now part of the problem.

When a pet is purchased instead of being adopted, that is one more critter who will languish in a cage at the shelter instead of going to a new home. That is also, one more animal that will now be bred by a breeder to replace the animal in the pet store that the person just bought. It continues the cycle of breeding more unnecessary pets.

The shelters are not places to be feared. They are bastions of hope for thousands of animals who are in need of some caring people to give them the forever home that they crave. The public should not shun their local shelters. They should be supporting them by adopting from them, but also taking animals there to find new homes when necessary.

Better to end up in the shelter where there is at least a chance of a new life with some new people who will give better care and more love to an animal, than to allow the little guy to be neglected and abandoned. When this goes on long enough, his condition becomes so bad that when he finally does end up at the shelter, that there is not other recourse than to end his life.

Many people simply set the animal free, so that someone else will find him and end up with the responsibility of taking him to the shelter. That is pretty sad. How can people be so heartless?

I think folks justify it in their minds by demonizing the shelter and rationalizing that setting their pet free or locking him away in a cage someplace out of sight, that it is actually better than being in the shelter. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The ultimate betrayal is preventing your pet from being able to finally get a new home where the people will have more time and love to give to him. You can rationalize running out on the commitment that was made when bringing the animal home in the first place, but then why not just let the pet move on and go somewhere where he is truly wanted?

Shelters are not the enemy and while no animal wants to end up there, for most it is a chance at a new life and a new beginning. Embrace your local shelter and even donate and volunteer there. See what is actually going on by becoming involved. I do not think there is a shelter in this country that does not need fresh new volunteers to help them in their quest to find new homes for their charges.


The Bunny Guy

No More Impulse Rabbits!

I know it has been a few weeks since I have updated this blog, but since my book was  published a month ago, I have been consumed with promoting it and getting the sales going. I am happy to report that the sales have quadrupled from what they were last month and I really hope that trend continues.

Today I sent copies of the book to several bunny-centric websites in hopes that they will like it and want to carry it to sell. I am working on getting everyone who buys a copy to review the book on Amazon, so that we can get higher rankings and therefore be seen by more people.

Yesterday was a very nice Easter Sunday for us, because the Beach Bunnies had a meeting again at Buccaneer Beach. We were collecting chocolate rabbits to donate to a local women’s shelter and ended up dropping off 27 chocolate rabbits for the children of abused women, which is almost double what we gave them last year.

We also had a busy Saturday educating the public at a Petco Unleashed, which I felt was very appropriate the day before Easter. My wife and I talked to dozens of people and it was good to visit with the two HRS fosters that we brought with us. Both of the foster rabbits were slated to be euthanized at a local shelter we work at for nipping, before the HRS pulled them from the shelter.

I totally escapes me how the shelters can justify putting a bunny to sleep for nipping, when it is part of being a bunny to do so. Rabbits communicate by nipping and I personally feel that nipping is normal rabbit behavior. My lap bunny, Star nips me every day. It is her way of telling me something.

Nipping by a bunny is a sign of good self esteem and confidence. A rabbit who does not have those good qualities usually will not nip, unless completely terrified or cornered. My bunnies nip me BECAUSE they are not afraid of me and are only trying to communicate something when they do it.

YES, there are some highly socialize bunnies who have been taught not to nip, but this takes a lot of work and trust on the part of the rabbit. I believe that basically all rabbits were born to nip.

There is a huge difference between biting and nipping. When a bunny nips, he is usually communicating something. In rabbit communication, a nip is like a human giving another the elbow. It means that you are clueless and missing something and to get with it.

When a rabbit bites, you are going to lose a hunk of skin. A biting rabbit intends to hurt you and is seriously angry or trying to defend himself. Virtually all rabbits nip at one time or another and it’s intention is not to cause serious bodily harm. Trust me if a rabbit wanted to harm you by biting, you are going to be bleeding when he is done.

A nip might occasionally break the skin, but in most cases will not. If it does, it is only because a bunny’s teeth are so sharp. For me, it is usually just a sharp pinch that hurts, but does not cause injury.

Back to the subject of shelters euthanizing for nipping. I feel this is absurd. To me this is like putting a dog to sleep for barking.

I realize after working for years with the shelters that they have a huge problem. More animals are usually coming in than are being adopted. Many critters spend months if not a full year waiting for a new home. The result of this is that any excuse to get rid of an animal becomes a serious and lethal one. It is a matter of space and economics, but the shelters are not the ones to blame.

Ultimately, the guilt falls onto the public who create the situation of many thousands of homeless animals, rabbits included. Rabbits are a particularly difficult problem in many communities because people obtain them from pet stores or craigslist on an impulse. It pains me to see rabbits for sale in the malls, because I know that most of them will be bought by people on an impulse.

They will be strolling along and see a cute rabbit in a mall store window. Even though fifteen minutes ago they had not idea that they wanted a pet rabbit, they were now the proud owner of a tiny baby one.

Once they get their newly purchased pet rabbit home, the problems start because they are totally unprepared. Their homes are not bunny-proofed and they do not usually have proper cages or x-pens for them. One local pet shop was selling rabbits for $10 last week in the days before Easter. Most of these impulse bunnies are bought for around $20 and when the new owners find out that it will be around $300 to have her spayed, it just does not happen.

It is then that things usually go from bad to worse. Carpets get chewed, as do the computer cords and TV cable. It is not long before the rabbit ends up locked in a backyard hutch or cage… or even worse let to run loose in the yard.

Many people will bring home a male bunny, who soon as he reaches sexual maturity will start spraying to mark his territory. He will soon be banned from the house because the owners never get him neutered and so that behavior will not ever end.

The public needs to become more informed about pet rabbits, so that they do not impulsively get them before preparing their home and family for what is involved in having one. It is too late when after you get a rabbit home to find out that one of your children or spouse is allergic to the fur or hay.

I cannot tell you how many rabbits have been returned to the shelter for this reason. I can only imagine how many store bought bunnies are disposed off for this, since pet stores don’t take rabbits back if it doesn’t work out like the shelters do.

Our local HRS gives classes to try and educate the public about how to care for, house and feed a pet bunny, but they are poorly attended considering the percentage of people who have rabbits and know virtually nothing about them. When I talk to people at educational events, I would venture to say that fully 80 percent of the folks who have a rabbit today, are not properly feeding, housing or caring for them. That is a very high percentage and just because you have had pet rabbits for 20 years does not mean that you know a lot about rabbits.

These are the same people who tell me that their rabbits only live to be 5 or 6 years old and thoroughly believe that it is normal for them to live that long. Most are shocked when I tell them that they live to be at least twice that old.

I will be the first to say that I had rabbits for 20 years myself and thought the same thing. It was a rude awakening when I finally realized that all of my previous rabbits had died an early death.

We have a lot of work to do to change this vicious cycle of impulsive buying of rabbits and then ending up at the shelters. It will only happen through education. Every one of us that loves bunnies needs to make a small effort to educate those around us.

Just like a YouTube video goes viral, we need to get this information about pet rabbits into the viral mode. It needs to be something that gets talked about over and over until a majority of the public understands that rabbits are not disposable pets. That rabbits are not a good kid’s pet. Even that rabbits are intelligent highly interactive pets, but that they are expensive and high maintenance. They are simply not for everyone. They are a ten year commitment that needs not be entered into lightly.

If this can be done, then someday people will consider the consequences of getting a pet rabbit just like they would a cat or a dog. It is possible and while it may not happen in my lifetime, I believe that someday it WILL happen.

The way it all starts is for you to tell someone you know all about rabbits. If enough people start saying the truth, it will become common knowledge. That is what I hope is in the future for all pet bunnies, don’t you?

The Bunny Guy