27 March 2024

By all means, adopt a bunny at Easter - just don't adopt a bunny for Easter

| Dione David
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Himmel from The Rabbit Sanctuary

It may seem impawsible, but sweet Himmel is available for adoption to a loving furever home. Photo: Ashley George-Hacon.

It’s the time of year when trawling through listings on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and the like is enough to make Lorina Gore hopping mad.

As a volunteer at The Rabbit Sanctuary – a registered charity that rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes rabbits in Victoria, the ACT and NSW – the influx of sellers listing “rabbits for Easter” is distressing.

“There are many thousands of rabbits around the country waiting in pounds or with rescues, and we don’t have enough homes for the ones we have in care. The Rabbit Sanctuary alone gets up to 12 requests to surrender every single day. Then you have people pumping out ‘bunnies for Easter’ to make a quick buck, and it’s a big problem,” she says.

“We are not against people adopting bunnies at Easter, so long as they’re not doing it on a whim, because it’s a long-term commitment. Some bunnies live up to 16 years.”

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While bunnies are listed on Gumtree for as little as $20 a pop, the realistic start-up outlay is at least $1000 for a responsible owner who genuinely wants to take proper care of their new addition.

What’s more, the listings, often devoid of information about vet workups or suitability to particular households, and with no recourse if it doesn’t work out, raise serious animal welfare concerns.

“There’s a real dark side to these kinds of marketplaces. The animals on them are at risk of some pretty horrendous outcomes,” Lorina says.

In stark contrast The Rabbit Sanctuary rigorously supports an “adopt don’t shop” approach, ensuring every bunny in its care is carefully matched to its adoptive household, and comes desexed (which alone costs about $300), microchipped, vaccinated and with a full vet workup including a dental check and parasite prevention.

Importantly, adopters are also given ongoing support from the rescue, including a return guarantee.

“That alone is worth its weight in gold in my eyes, because there are a number of legitimate reasons why someone might have to surrender a rabbit,” Lorina says.

For all this, the charity requests a minimum donation of $265 for one rabbit or $365 for a pair to go towards the workup of the next bunny.

It means copping a loss for each bunny the organisation accepts into its care but it is an important value add in the war against irresponsible pet purchasing.

The Rabbit Sanctuary has every breed, colour and personality in its ranks of bunnies awaiting their forever homes. Some prefer homes without pets or children, others are not fazed, but Lorina says it’s important to note that when “buying a pet for a child,” ultimately the responsibility of caring for the animal rests with an adult.

“Children are dependents, too; they cannot be expected to be the primary carer for the animal,” she says.

“Another misconception is that a rabbit requires less work than a cat or dog. They need a minimum of an hour a day in care to change their litter, provide fresh food and water, groom and health checks, and their vet work is expensive.

“If you can find space in your home and heart for one, however, they’re an ideal house pet. In my bunny-proofed home, my two gorgeous buns are free-range. They’re quiet, their poos are very inoffensive compared to cats and dogs, they’re cheap to feed and don’t need to be taken for walks.”

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Ashley George-Hacon can attest to that. She is one of about 20 bunny foster parents in The Rabbit Sanctuary’s South Coast chapter, which covers her home suburb of Helensburgh down to Batemans Bay.

At about five years old her first foster bun, Himmel, is a “distinguished older gentleman” and isn’t the biggest fan of physical activity.

“I let him out a couple of times a day; he’ll run around for 20 minutes to half an hour and by that point, I usually find him curled up snoozing somewhere,” she laughs.

“Himmel has so much personality and that includes a bit of old man energy – he can get grumpy and lazy, and often just wants to chill on the couch and cuddle. In saying that, he’s the sweetest boy, is great with my young kids, isn’t bothered by my dog and just loves a snuggle.

“Himmel was almost a foster fail, but it’s not the right time for our family. He’ll make one lucky family very happy though, I have no doubt.”

To find out more, visit The Rabbit Sanctuary.

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