Humane Society bunny rescue
A bunny rescued by the San Diego Humane Society. Courtesy photo

With Easter approaching, animal rescue organizations in Southern California and elsewhere are once again urging people to avoid the temptation to purchase or adopt bunnies as Easter gifts for children.

They say what begins as a well-meaning gesture often leads to abandoned bunnies when the novelty wears off and families realize they’re not equipped to properly care for the animals.

“Easter bunnies who magically appear and lay multi-colored eggs shown on greetings cards and cartoons are nothing but a fantasy,” says Lejla Hadzimuratovic, founder and president of Bunny World Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that’s rescued thousands of unwanted rabbits from shelters and owner surrenders since its founding in 2008.

“The reality is that all year long bunnies, who appear more like urban chickens, are dying by the millions, slaughtered for food, fur and skin, tortured in laboratory experiments and confined to shoebox-sized cages, neglected, and exposed to harsh temperatures in commercial breeding factories,” Hadzimuratovic added.

Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. They require feeding, cleaning, and humane indoor housing in a bunny-proofed room, and veterinary care can be expensive.

They’re also not ideal pets for small children, as they respond best to quiet energy and can be easily spooked by a child’s hyperactivity. Most bunnies do not like to be picked up or held, may scratch or bite in an effort to get free, and can be seriously injured or even killed if they’re dropped.

For those with children, rescue groups and animal control officials recommend buying a stuffed toy bunny or chocolate candy rabbit for kids’ Easter baskets.

Retail sales of rabbits, dogs and cats is prohibited in California, but direct sales are still permitted, including online, and illegal street sales occur in urban areas where baby bunnies are sometimes deceptively marketed as adult “dwarfs.”

Advocates for the animals do want them to be adopted into loving homes, but they stress that adoption is a serious commitment that requires a willingness to learn the ropes.

The House Rabbit Society has resources for learning about proper rabbit care, which can be found at www.rabbit.org.

A few basics:

  • Domestic rabbits should be kept indoors at all times.
  • They should be fed a diet of unlimited hay and a daily portion of leafy greens, plus pellets and alfalfa hay for rabbits under 6 months.
  • They should never be kept in cages, as they need room to hop around and exercise their legs.
  • They need to be thoroughly groomed every two to three months to remove excess fur and have their nails trimmed.
  • They’re aggressive chewers, and need to be kept away from electrical cords and anything that can be dangerous if ingested, such as taped or glued boxes.
  • Bunnies who stop eating or appear to be in pain need immediate care from a veterinarian trained in the care of rabbits. Bunnies who stop eating can die within 36 hours. Not every vet has expertise with rabbits, so owners should find the one nearest them that they can rely on in an emergency.

City News Service contributed to this article.