Have you ever wondered what happens to all those cute, cuddly bunnies sold as gifts for children in the spring, especially during the Easter holiday? Regrettably, once the novelty of the new pet has faded, many of the rabbits are orphaned and wind up abandoned in shelters; or worse yet, left to fend for themselves in backyards, parks or on busy streets.
Statistics indicate that the rabbit is the third most commonly euthanized household pet in the United States. These startling figures compelled Marinell and Bob Harriman to organize the House Rabbit Society in 1988; the only nationwide rabbit rescue and education program of its kind. HRS is a registered non-profit, volunteer-based organization with local chapters and educators located throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Richmond, California, the society’s mission focuses on two aspects of rabbit rescue —adoption and education. An organization that supports keeping rabbits as indoor rather than outdoor pets, HRS members attest that rabbits, like other companion animals, are social pets worthy of human interaction and affection.
Rabbits rescued by HRS are primarily those that have run out of time at humane societies. The organization accepts full responsibility for the rabbits they rescue, offering foster care, health care, spay and neutering services, and a fully screened adoption program. It also serves as a sanctuary for those “unadoptable” bunnies, due to age, health or disposition. HRS educational programs keep veterinarians, humane societies and interested individuals abreast of the latest information regarding the house rabbit.
Each chapter of the society is independently incorporated and each is responsible for their own events. Most chapters engage in vigorous media efforts during the period surrounding the Easter holiday, cautioning against the purchase of “Easter bunnies” without first educating oneself about the animals specific needs. The national office makes available Easter related text and photographs for use in publicity efforts.
November 2000 marked the grand opening of the society’s official National Headquarters/Adoption and Education Center in Richmond, California. The new shelter /headquarters functions as a hub for the society’s adoption/ fostering network, an education center, the home to a ‘Bunny Supply and Goody Store,’ and a publishing center for it’s national programs. The HRS and its members foresee this new shelter as being instrumental in increasing public awareness about the house rabbit as well as furthering the organization’s current rescue efforts. Beth Woolbright, Education Director of the National Headquarters, is proud to report that a record number of 20 rabbits have found permanent homes within the first two months of the shelters opening.
Bunnies are becoming ever more popular with the arrival of spring. With Easter just around the corner, the House Rabbit Society urges parents and friends to do their homework before buying a rabbit, because contrary to the Easter bunny’s popularity with children, the two often do not make a good match. Ms.Woolbright is quick to advise, “Rabbits are not the pet for everyone. They require as much attention as a cat or a dog does.”
If you feel that a rabbit is the right pet for you, the House Rabbit Society encourages you to visit your local animal shelter to meet some terrific, but homeless bunnies.