Although harnesslife.org mainly focuses on canine and feline companion pets, we recognize that many of you also have other furry and feathered friends. Lola recently interviewed Sara Jane Cristofur of Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue, Inc. to learn about leporine companion pets . . .
LOLA: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Sara Jane. I know how busy you are this time of year.
SARA JANE: I’m happy to answer your questions, Lola. It’s good to work with you to educate your followers about responsible rabbit care.
LOLA: I’m almost embarrassed to ask this . . . I am so unaware of many of the problems that face rabbits . . . are there pet shops that still sell baby bunnies for Easter or has that practice finally been stopped?
SARA JANE: Yes, unfortunately, many pet stores still sell baby bunnies around Easter time. The saddest part of it is that most of them are taken from their Mom way too early (so that they’ll be small for sale) and are ill from parasites or being weaned too early. Sadly, most of the babies sold for Easter will not see their first birthday.
LOLA: Oh, that’s so sad! So, these babies are still being sold . . . where?
SARA JANE: There are several local offenders that I know of – two pet stores and a home/agriculture store. But I bet any of your readers – in just about any state in the U.S. – could see baby bunnies for sale this time of year.
LOLA: Where do all these bunnies come from? Are there backyard breeders who sell bunnies (like w/certain ‘in demand’ breeds of dogs)?
SARA JANE: There were a couple of backyard breeders near me, but they have moved out. However, if you pick up the local newspaper you will see babies for sale right now. The best way to stop this suffering is to stop buying the bunnies from these people!
LOLA: I agree! The best way to slow (and eventually stop) the supply from the backyard breeders is to reduce the demand. I always encourage our readers to adopt their pets from a local shelter or rescue group. So, let’s talk about another way to reduce rabbit overpopulation – prevention. What can you tell us about rabbit reproduction?
SARA JANE: Pet stores are notorious for getting people to take two bunnies. They assure the people they are the same sex when they have no clue. We get calls all the time from people who tell us “the guy in the pet store said they were both boys”. They call when they find themselves with 10 babies. Gestation for rabbits is 30 -32 days; they can have 8-10 at a time. Every thirty days. Those buyers that only take one do not realize how quickly they grow up and how big they can get. Oh, and another pet store myth: “he is a dwarf”. That’s why there are so many bunnies in rescue groups right now. Then, just wait until a couple of months after Easter!
LOLA: So what about ♀Spay & ♂Neuter for rabbits? Wouldn’t that help? And, don’t all veterinarians do the surgery?
SARA JANE: Of course it would help. But people do not realize that bunnies are not good pets for small children as portrayed in the media. They are not starter pets. They are not low maintenance and they are not cheap. Rabbits are considered exotic animals and need a vet experienced with exotics and rabbits. A rabbit spay is $250 – $350 ; a neuter about $200. Just a well check-up by an exotic vet is $65 – $115. One other point I would like to mention is that the uterine cancer rate of unspayed female rabbits is 85%. So, it is extremely important that people do spay their females and not just get the males neutered as they often do.
LOLA: Oh, exotic? I had no idea . . . well, are there lower cost options – like the ♀Spay & ♂Neuter clinics that I promote for cats and dogs?
SARA JANE: The New Jersey House Rabbit Society, although they are not actively taking in or adopting rabbits, do have their own low cost ♀Spay & ♂Neuter program that they offer to rabbit owners in our area. You can find details about their program at: http://www.njhrs.com/spayneuter.htm Also, an internet search can provide you with other options outside of our area. Remember though, rabbit physiology requires different anesthesia and operating procedures compared to cats and dogs, so do your research to find a qualified vet.
LOLA: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time together, Sara Jane. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! And, please thank Karen and all the other wonderful volunteers who provide help to our rabbit friends at Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue and elsewhere.
SARA JANE: My pleasure, Lola. And a hoppy Easter to you, too!