June 10, 2022
Author: Adriana Morga
April 13, 2022
Easter is a hallowed holiday in the Christian religion, but some secular images have come to mark the day: pastel colored eggs and bunnies in baskets.
Some might wonder how rabbits became the image of the Christian Holiday. While little is known by the origin of the Easter Bunny, the image of bunnies in Easter was introduced to the United States by German immigrants, according to History.com. Around the 1700s, German immigrants shared their tale of an egg-laying hare and the tradition of children coloring eggs,, according to an article by Time Magazine.
Now that the Easter Bunny has become so engrained in our celebration, parents might think to gift a bunny to their children for Easter. But local shelters say pets can be problematic holiday gifts.
Most people know the commitment that comes with adopting dogs and cats, but the amount of responsibility that comes with having a rabbit as a pet is not as widely known, said Linda Thibault, director of Hopalong Hollow Rabbit Rescue in Norwalk.
“Rabbits are not an easy pet. They are not an impulse purchase, they’re a long-time commitment,” said Thibault, who opened Hopalong Hollow in 2004.
A report by Shelter Animals Count conducted in 2021 showed that rabbit adoptions are fairly consistent every month of the year, according to the MSPCA.
However, local shelters such as the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in Branford do see a spike of interest during the holidays, according to Laura Selvaggio Burban, of the shelter.
“Every single year after Easter and Christmas, we get an influx of bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters and ferrets,” said Selvaggio Burban. “But most people don’t want a five, seven, or 15-year commitment as a gift.”
When people receive rabbits as a gift, they have a higher risk of returning them or abandoning them, said Selvaggio Burban. Domestic rabbits are the third most abandoned pet in the United States and at least 80% of rabbits purchased around Easter are abandoned or die within a year, according to National Geographic.
Domesticated rabbits abandoned in the wilderness can also affect wild rabbits, according to Howard Kilpatrick from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The New England Cottontail and Eastern Cottontail are the two wild rabbit species that can be found in Connecticut. The former is the only one native to Connecticut while the latter was introduced to the Nutmeg state in the late 1800s, according to DEEP.
“If you release domestic rabbits, there’s always a risk that they’re carrying diseases or parasites that may not affect them, but they may affect wild rabbits,” said Kilpatrick.
An additional misunderstanding is how long people think rabbits can live, according to Thibault. Most rabbits live eight to 12 years but some live up to 14 years, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
While bunnies are very cute but they can also be quite destructive, specifically when it comes to electric cords, so people need to “bunny-proof” their house, said Thibault. For many years, rabbits were considered a starter pet, but this is a misconception since they need as much care as dogs and cats, added Thibault.
To discourage impulse buying of rabbits, PETCO stopped selling them in 2008. This decision was applauded by the House Rabbit Society, which said that this decision would impact the surplus of homeless rabbits in the country.
Among the care that is needed for rabbits is a great quantity of hay, a spacious playpen and a litter box. While all of these can be inexpensive, the expenses add up with veterinary care. One visit to the vet could easily be a thousand dollars, said Thibault.
One additional challenge to adopting rabbits in Connecticut is the low number of veterinary clinics that treat them, according to Susan Wollschlager of the Connecticut Humane Society.
“You don’t have as many veterinary offices in Connecticut that see rabbits so you want to make sure that there is one near you so that you can keep up with regular care for your bunny when you adopt them,” said Wollschlager.
When people are interested in adopting, the Connecticut Humane Society ensures that the family knows the amount of commitment they are undertaking, according to Wollschlager.
Selvaggio from Dan Cosgrove, recommends people to also volunteer in an animal shelter.
“Volunteer for six months and see how you feel about cleaning bunny cages and socializing with them. And if you think it’s still a great fit, then adopt one of them that you’ve already gotten to know,” said Selvaggio Burban.
Once people are aware of the commitment and care that rabbits need, they make great pets, said Wollschlager.
“They have personalities just like any other animal and some want attention all the time and will sit on your lap and cuddle with you and others want to hop around,” said Wollschlager, who has a rabbit herself. “They can be really entertaining and make you laugh so I think they are a really fun pet.”