By Carolyn Ten Broeck
It happens every year in Any Town, USA: a child wants a bunny for Easter and parents who want that child to be happy sees the dream fulfilled.
But, too often–as with most things children initially want–the new wears off and suddenly what was an adoreable wanted pet becomes a burden.
And for many of those parents, they do what they think is best – let the rabbit loose in a park or forest to return to nature.
That’s exactly the wrong thing to do, says Kathy Finelli, director of Gainesville Rabbit Rescue located in Raleigh, just north of Williston.
Rabbits that are purchased as pets are domesticated animals and cannot fend for themselves in the wild, Finelli said. Rabbits are prey to larger animals and domesticated ones are dependent on the care they must receive from people.
“People who let them loose are condemning them to death,” Finelli said. “They will starve or fall victim to predators.”
For more than 12 years, the rabbit rescue has been taking in these cast off pets and caring for them until they can be adopted. Many are fostered by others who already have rabbits as pets, she said.
“We treat our rabbits like most people treat dogs and cats,” she said. “They are spayed or neutered, groomed and are litter-box trained.”
The rabbits at the rescue – about 47 now – all have names and stories of how they came to live in the air conditioned barn that serves as the rescue’s main base of operations.
Many rabbits are referred to the rescue by animal control services that span the tri-county area–and beyond she said.
Many places won’t take them, Finelli said, because they are classified as agricultural animals since many are grown as a food product. Others simply euthanize them.
Gainesville Rabbit Rescue accepts any rabbit that has been mistreated or abandoned and would only refuse one if the barn is filled to capacity – about 80-85 animals.
The non-profit, tax exempt organization depends solely on contributions and is run by a board of directors. Nearly everything that is used in the rescue has been donated, Finelli said.
Most rabbits can live up to 10 years, she said, and people should remember that when purchasing a bunny. It’s not a toy but a 10-year commitment, the rescue volunteer said.
If you are interested in donating to the rescue or becoming a volunteer or foster family, contact Finelli at 352-528-5591 or e-mail email@example.com.