Twelve years ago I rescued a rabbit from a pet store where she was being cannibalized by another rabbit. After getting her medical needs taken care of I started calling rescue groups to take her off my hands. I knew nothing about caring for a rabbit and thought I had no place to put her. (I’m certain the bookcase Spiny took the place of could never have given me the joy and love she has.) Every group told me they were full and couldn’t take her. One lady even told me to take her to the pound if I couldn’t keep her until finding her a home. I said “How can you call yourself a rescue when you’re telling me to take her to the pound?!” and hung up, furious.
Finding Spiny Norma led to my education and awareness of the huge homeless rabbit problem no one seemed to know/talk/care about. I have volunteered for many rabbit groups since then and what I’ve learned is that most of us are usually understaffed, underfunded, overworked, and overwhelmed. For every rabbit we save there are countless others we can’t. I’m the lady on the phone now, telling people the exact same thing I was told, only now I understand why. I’m hoping this will help YOU understand why as well. We want to help you and your rabbit. You’re obviously trying to do the right thing. Please understand we are too, but we deal with a minimum of 10 to 25 calls/emails PER DAY concerning unwanted rabbits and we do the best we can to save as many as possible. You could get lucky and contact us (or another group) just when we get an opening. But please be aware it could take anywhere from a week to months to get your rabbit into the rescue system. Here are some tips that will help you get your rabbit safely re-homed:
- Get your bun spayed/neutered. This greatly increases the chances for being accepted into a rescue group, eliminates the risk of more unwanted rabbits, and cuts down on undesirable behaviors (such as biting, mounting, standoffishness, spraying, destructiveness, poor litterbox habits), and the risk of cancer in the reproductive organs. There are low-cost spay/neuter clinics all over. Ask your local vet, rescue group, or humane society for a referral. Expect to pay $45.00 and up for neuter and $65.00 and up for spay. Considering all the benefits it’s a worthwhile expense.
- Littertrain and socialize him. If the rabbit has been abused he may take a little extra love and patience to make him see that not all humans will hurt him. Friendly buns are easier to place.
- Avoid “Free To Good Home” ads. People look for these ads to find snake food, bait for fighting dogs, and animals to sell to labs.
- Make a flyer of your rabbit with a picture and a description of his physical appearance and personality traits. State if he’s fixed or littertrained. Charge a minimum of $20.00 due to the dangers listed in #3. You can charge more if your rabbit is fixed. (If they’re not willing to pay for a fixed and socialized rabbit, chances are they wouldn’t pay for medical care either.)
- Post the flyer in vet offices (especially exotic vets as rabbits are technically considered an exotic pet) and pet stores or anyplace else you think will attract a good home. Get your rabbit’s flyer to as many rescue groups as possible. You can find them by vet/humane society referral, online, or pick up a copy of The Pet Press for a complete listing. (They’re on our “Links” page and can tell you where to find a copy, or call 818-998-1036 to find a supplier near you.)
- Ask questions to ensure prospective caretakers know and are prepared to provide whatever it takes to keep a rabbit happy and healthy. (Check our other education pages for info on proper care.) If you can avoid him going to an outdoor home, please do. Outdoor rabbits have a life expectancy of only 3 to 5 years. A healthy house rabbit can live 10 years or longer. Some potential questions to ask are:
- Have you ever had a rabbit before? If so, what happened to him/her
- Where do you plan to keep him?
- Who will be responsible for his care?
- Do you know what to feed the rabbit?
- Are you aware of rabbit illnesses and how to recognize them?
- Are you willing to pay a vet bill if he gets sick or injured?
- Don’t be afraid to do a home visit before handing over your rabbit. (We ALWAYS do.) Check for any dangers in the environment such as pet snakes, predatory dogs/cats, or children that may be too rough on your rabbit. ( If they don’t want you in their home it’s a red flag.) NO TINY WIRE CAGES!!!! No outside hutches or free range in the backyard if avoidable. Trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to turn someone down if the situation isn’t right.
- Check back from time to time with any groups you left information with.
- Be patient. There are rarely safe overnight solutions to an unwanted or abandoned rabbit. This is a helpless life in your hands.
NEVER release a rabbit anywhere, no matter how safe the setting may seem. Domestic rabbits are not equipped to survive in the wild and inevitably die horrendous deaths. Predation by dogs, feral cats, even humans – are just a few of the perils a dumped rabbit faces. Add in poisoning, hawk attack, exposure, cars, starvation/dehydration – and their chances of survival are slim to none. Dropping him off at a pet store is a crapshoot at best. He will most likely end up as snake food, especially if he’s full grown. Schools aren’t a good option either, we get a lot of dump calls from school situations…the rabbit either outlives his usefulness or ends up sick or injured with no one willing to pay for medical care. If you are simply unable or unwilling to do what it takes to find a safe place for your rabbit, take him to the pound. His chances won’t be great, but he will at least have a humane death. As for my first rescue… a wonderful rabbit volunteer named Laurie from The House Rabbit Society educated me from the ground up on proper care and Spiny Norma became the first house rabbit of many more to follow. Spiny is 13 now, mischievious as ever, and happily married to her sweetie Dinsdale.
I wish you and your rabbit the best of luck, and thank you for being humane & compassionate. Your rabbit will be forever grateful to you for his life. If you decide to open your heart and home to your rabbit permanently, any of our volunteers would be happy to provide any information that will enable you to do so sucessfully.
Cat McIntire – Volunteer, Education & Adoptions