To the editor:
As Easter approaches, many families are enticed by the cute baby bunnies for sale in pet stores. As a rabbit owner and animal lover in general, I urge families in the New Ulm area to think carefully before getting a bunny as an Easter gift for their children. Rabbits are not less expensive or easier to care for than cats, dogs, or any other pet. Proper care of rabbits includes spaying/neutering, litterbox training, grooming, nail clipping, veterinary visits, and exercise time, as well as adequate attention and love. Rabbits require specialized kibble and hay as well as a variety of fresh vegetables daily. Please consider these facts before purchasing a bunny this Easter:
1. Rabbits are not ideal pets for young children. As prey animals, they are easily startled and do not thrive in environments with constant noise and motion. In general, rabbits enjoy gentle petting, but dislike being held, chased, or roughhousing, which causes many children to lose interest. Rabbits are fragile animals; accidental mishandling by a child can easily cause a rabbit's spine to snap and result in serious injury or death.
2. Rabbits' teeth are continually growing, necessitating an unlimited supply of chew toys to prevent painful overgrowth of rabbit teeth. If not provided with an adequate amount of chewing materials and if your home is not "bunny-proofed," rabbits will chew anything in sight - electrical cords, clothing, baseboards, furniture, etc. Rabbits also live best in indoor environments, rather than hutches outside, as it provides more opportunity for human interaction and exercise. Living outside, rabbits are vulnerable to predators, as well as exposure to dangerously hot or cold climates.
3. Approximately 90 percent of rabbits given as Easter gifts die within the first year of their purchase. After the novelty of a rabbit wears off, many families will either set the rabbit free, believing it can survive in the wilderness (domestic rabbits will live three days or less) or return it to a pet store or animal shelter, where it will be euthanized or sold as reptile food if not adopted quickly enough. Many of these rabbits will also die of neglect, cruelty, poor diet, improper care, or an untreated or unrecognized disease.
4. Rabbits, depending on the breed, can live up to 10 or12 years. Consider whether you and your family will be able to commit to raising a rabbit for its entire life, not just until your child becomes bored with it.
In presenting this information, I am not trying to discourage anyone from adopting a rabbit. I adopted my rabbit Henry a year and a half ago and he is a wonderful pet. But rabbits require just as much care as any other animal, and families should conduct thorough research about their desired pet and truly think about whether they are able to provide a forever home for any animal they acquire. If you want to give your child a bunny this Easter, make it a plush or chocolate one; or, consider sponsoring a shelter rabbit's care or temporarily fostering a rabbit to see if it is the right pet for you.