The Chinese Year of the Rabbit hasn’t been especially kind to the pet rabbits in Cobb County. The post-Easter bunny release season keeps rabbit rescuers hopping, and this year is no exception.
House rabbits bought by well meaning purchasers and given to first-time bunny owners (including children) are being released into the wild, dropped off in church and grocery store parking lots, or left chained to trees.
Rabbits as pets, as many find out too late, take work, specialized diets, and attention to unusual health problems.
Members of the Georgia House Rabbit Society hope to change public perception of bunnies, educate new owners, and keep the furry pets where they belong.
The group’s new Rabbit House on Shallowford Road near Trickum Road in East Cobb is a sanctuary for discarded domestic rabbits. Here, rescued rabbits have a cage-free environment, a medical area for new intakes, a kitchen, and an apartment for a live-in, on-site house manager. A sophisticated security system helps keep the animals, volunteers, and employees safe.
A boarding area and retail store for rabbit supplies help sustain this 501(c)3 organization, but most of the money to help the rabbit rescue comes from donations, says Chapter Manager and Chairman Edie Sayeg.
Running the rescue under a business model is a change for the Rabbit Society, Sayeg said. “For any rescue to be sustainable, there has to be some income. We needed a center, rather than rely on foster [homes]. We needed to buy a building.”
When the Shallowford Road property became available, the group jumped through some hoops to get the necessary zoning variances. A tight-knit neighborhood behind the run-down house had some objections, which the group addressed. Cobb County granted the variance this spring, and the dilapidated house has been gutted and rebuilt to house some 30 adoptable rabbits.
“Rabbits are the third most abandoned and euthanized pet, after dogs and cats,” said volunteer Jennifer Cray. Last year, about 150 house rabbits were rescued by the group, mostly from the wild, but some were scooped out of kill shelters. The Society spent $30,000 last year on veterinary costs for rabbits in their care.
The group is passionate about rabbit education, and holds classes every month to teach owners about care, feeding, play requirements, and rabbit health and medical issues. The “Bunny 101” and “201” classes also help to prevent abandonment by solving problems that rabbit owners encounter.
“People think they can just dump them out in the wild,” Cray said. “They [domestic rabbits] meet either parasites, people, or other pets,” which does not usually end well for a house rabbit, she said.
Humprey, a.k.a. “Patch,” a white bunny with a black fur patch around one eye, suffered from ear mites and was covered in ticks when he was brought to the center for treatment and rehabilitation. Treated and neutered, he moved from the medical area to the adoption area in the house. No longer fearful, Humphrey will snuggle and sniff visitors.
“Rabbits require a lot of specialized care. They are smart, curious creatures that bond with their human,” Cray said.
For information on the adoptable rabbits at the Center, phone (678) 653-7175 or visit the website, www.houserabbitga.org to see some of the rabbits up for adoption.
The next Creature Feature will include specific rabbit requirements: food, shelter, play, and companionship.