Rabbit rescue, veterinarian discourage giving bunnies as Easter gifts

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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - Diana Ford knows rabbits like few people do.

Ford owns five bunnies of her own and fosters one more in her Coralville home for A Home for EveryBunny, Iowa’s only rabbit-based rescue.

“A lot of people don’t realize that they are truly a commitment. They’re not easy starter pets,” she said.

Anyone who adopts a rabbit through A Home for EveryBunny has to go through a thorough adoption process, which includes vetting, interviews and even a meet-and-greet with the rabbits to ensure they’re a good fit in their potential owner’s home.

The rescue doesn’t adopt out rabbits as Easter gifts because they said getting one is not a decision that should be made lightly.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, rabbits are the third-most surrendered pet in the country, after dogs and cats.

About 20 people across Iowa, including Ford, take in surrendered bunnies and foster them for A Home for EveryBunny.

“We actually have to start a wait list of surrenders because we have more surrender requests than we have foster homes, and right now, our list is somewhere in the range of 30 to 40 bunnies waiting,” Ford said.

She said a big reason for so many surrenders is that people don’t realize how much money and work are needed to care for rabbits.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it costs about $800 for the first year of owning a rabbit. For every year after that, it costs about $470.

Those bills add up even more if the rabbit has health issues, like one fostered by the A Home for EveryBunny.

“The total bill for this poor rabbit is in excess of about $2,000,” Ford said.

But before rabbit owners get to that point, they need to find a veterinarian that treats bunnies, because the animal is considered “exotic” and requires specialized care.

Dr. Rebecca Noel is one vet who does care for rabbits at Animal Kingdom Veterinary Care Center in North Liberty.

“They have a lot of dietary needs that people don’t always realize. They need to do a lot of hay in their diet and green, leafy stuff, not just pellets and carrots and other vegetables,” she said.

Dr. Noel said rabbits can develop digestive issues of they aren’t constantly eating.

“It’s kind of more of an emergency when they haven’t been eating for 12 hours, versus dogs or cats,” she said.

Rabbits also need room to move and can’t stay in a cage all day, according to Ford, who keeps her bunnies in large pens filled with toys, a litter box, plenty of food and even a sleeping area.

“They need at least a couple hours a day of really good exercise time,” she said.

If you can’t provide that, there are other rabbit options this spring.

“If you want one want for Easter, I would recommend a stuffed one, rather than a regular one,” Dr. Noel said. “Or a chocolate one, versus the real, live thing.”

Anyone with questions about rabbit adoption can contact A Home for EveryBunny at www.iowarabbitrescue.org