Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Don't Buy A Bunny On Impulse Just Because It's Easter!!

He had probably ridden the subway, at least for a while, before being abandoned. That was Olivia Upshur’s suspicion when she investigated the odd-looking box between a bank of stairs at the Main Street station. When she lifted the blue-and-white floral sheet covering it, she saw it was a rabbit in a cage. “I was afraid he was going to die, freeze to death, if he was left there,’’ Upshur recalls. “He wasn’t moving. I was pretty much in tears.”

Upshur took the rabbit to TTC collection-booth operator Nizam Damji, who called Toronto Animal Services. Twenty minutes and counting, there was no sign of TAS. So Upshur called her parents and told them she was bringing home a pet that someone had discarded. Damji gave Upshur $10 to take a cab, not a bus, to her parents’ home in the Beaches. Bubsie — as he is now known — is one lucky bunny. Upshur, 20, knows her rabbits. She and her sister, Sara, 12, have raised Stripe for nearly 12 years.

Hundreds of rabbits abandoned annually in the GTA aren’t so fortunate, particularly now, when people are more likely to buy a bunny on impulse, says Haviva Lush, founder of Rabbit Rescue Inc. “Easter sucks to be a rabbit,” says Lush, whose Milton-based charity places bunnies with volunteer foster families until permanent homes are found. There are 50 rabbits in foster families at any given time. “Rabbits are purchased so commonly for kids at Easter — they’re cute and cheap. A couple of months after Easter, though, kids lose interest, parents don’t want to look after it, the bunny is starting to mature and needs to be spayed or neutered — and parents have no interest in paying for that.”

The Toronto Humane Society anticipates an influx of bunny surrenders “a month of so after Easter,’’ according to a THS spokesperson. So rabbits join the list of pets that end up in city parks, animal shelters and, sometimes on a cold subway staircase. And of course it isn’t just the post-Easter abandonment spike; rabbits are relinquished constantly.

In 2010, Toronto Animal Services (TAS) was involved with 246 rabbits. Of that total:

 •  100 were adopted.
 • 88 were euthanized because they were sick, injured or had a bad temperament.
 •  23 were transferred to rabbit-rescue organizations, to be placed in foster care.
 •  one was returned to an owner
 •  five died in the shelter
 •  28 were dead when workers arrived to pick them up
 •  one rabbit from 2010 remains in the shelter

TAS rabbits are neutered or spayed. The adoption fee is $40 (compared to $75 to adopt cats, $125 for dogs). The THS has taken in 106 rabbits since it reopened last July, 62 of which were brought in by guardians or owners who no longer wanted or could care for them. The shelter advises that rabbits are not good pets for classrooms or families with young children. Not all bunnies like to be picked up and as natural chewers they gnaw on electrical cords, baseboards and carpets if an area hasn’t been rabbit proofed, says Lush.

Pet stores are the main culprits in introducing bunnies into the community, says Olga Betts of Vancouver Rabbit Rescue and Advocacy, a volunteer charitable organization.  Read more from The Toronto Star...

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