While bunnies may seem like a great fit for Easter, pet stores in Lethbridge say they don’t make for great gifts and buying them for others can lead to an increase in abandonment.
“Some people come in and it’s an impulse buy or it’s for the kids and the kids lose interest after a year or even a couple of months and then the parents have to take care of them or they get passed around from home to home,” said Lindsey Beekman, a pet counsellor at Pet Parade.
Beekman says a spike in bunny demand is something they face every spring.
“We try to educate people as much as possible on how long the bunny actually lives,” she said.
“Some people think it’s only a couple of years, where they can actually live about 10 or so years. They do get quite big.”
It’s not just their size people need to consider before making the purchase.
“They do chew on everything, they need to constantly chew. Their teeth grow and they need to be let out on a daily — if not every other day — basis,” Beekman said. “They do like to interact with other animals too. They are social so they don’t like to be cooped up by themselves constantly.”
Proper diet, along with spaying and neutering, can also add up.
“Rabbits are considered exotic pets so the vet cost for a rabbit compared to your standard cat or dog is a whole lot more,” said Andrew Penton, a municipal enforcement officer with the Lethbridge Animal Shelter.
Penton says, after the holiday, the novelty can often wear off.
“We do have the increase in calls and we do have to tell people, ‘That’s not our spot. Here’s a list of rescues, here’s a list of options,'” he said.
Some local pet stores have helped ease the burden when it comes to finding new homes.
“Even though we are a pet store, we have those rescue bunnies that need it,” Beekman said. “There’s definitely a lot out there. People think it’s more dogs and cats but sometimes the rescues get bombarded with 40 or 50 rescues at once.”
If you’re thinking about letting your rabbit go free, the Helen Schuler Nature Centre says that’s not a good idea.
“You’re releasing it to likely either starve to death — because the rabbits don’t recognize food sources so they’re not sure what is good for them to eat versus plants that are toxic,” Manager Coreen Putman said, “or you’re releasing them to become food for other animals.”
Beekman says, unless you’re willing to commit to a rabbit for life, you’re better off sticking to the chocolate version.