But the Georgia House Rabbit Society, a nonprofit, all-volunteer rabbit rescue and education organization, is reminding parents that rabbits are not Easter gifts.
“There’s a huge misconception that rabbits are good ‘starter’ pets for children,” said Jennifer Cray, a GHRS-licensed educator. “The truth is, that could not be any further from the truth.”
Rabbits can live for 10-plus years — long after the novelty of the pet has worn off. Additionally, rabbits are not as easy to care for as many people believe.
“Rabbits are a very highly misunderstood pet, and there is still a lot of misinformation out there,” Cray said.
Through the support of Clear Channel, the GHRS has also raised billboards on Interstate 75 in Marietta and in downtown Atlanta, reminding parents that rabbits are not Easter gifts.
Edie Sayeg, co-chapter manager for GHRS, said there are many things people should know before they purchase a rabbit.
Rabbits are prolific breeders if they aren’t spayed or neutered, a procedure that Sayeg said also prevents health and behavioral problems. A rabbit that isn’t spayed or neutered will become “a raging hormonal teenagers a few months after Easter,” Sayeg said. The rabbit can also become territorial, often biting and kicking and leaving smelly messes around your house.
Sayeg also reminds parents that, though rabbits may cost only $15 to $20, it can cost upwards of $300 to have them spayed or neutered.
Rabbits must also be fed and housed correctly, living in a large enclosure indoors. If the rabbit is left outside, it can become lonely and pick up parasites. Additionally, rabbits need to eat every 12 hours. These highly social animals require four hours of daily playtime.
Children often lose interest in caring so extensively for a pet, and the parent is left responsible for an animal that they never really wanted. As a result, most of these Easter pets are abandoned in shelters. Sayeg estimates that 95 percent of the world’s Easter bunnies will be dead within a year.
GHRS members work to raise awareness about the commitment involved in purchasing a rabbit. They’ve accomplished this through educating the public in “Bunny 101” classes. They also rescue rabbits, spay and neuter them, and place them in adoptive homes. Every person who adopts a rabbit from the GHRS is required to attend at least four hours of educational classes.
Sayeg says that oftentimes, people view rabbits as disposable pets, abandoning the animals as soon as the Easter season has ended.
GHRS is fighting this trend.
“What we are trying to do is get rabbits to be looked at as members of the family, just as a dog would be,” said Sayeg. “Rabbits are valuable.”