The president of a Livermore-based rabbit rescue group says rabbits are coming in at "alarming rate", and the group needs help.
"We have never seen anything like this," said Joan Wegner, president of East Bay Rabbit Rescue. "Our adoptions aren't making a dent. For every rabbit adopted, there are three taking their place. In the decade that we have been rescuing bunnies, we have never felt so helpless."
Wegner said in a typical year, the group finds homes for about 200 rabbits. But interest has suddenly waned.
"Through May we adopted out 100 rabbits and now we are at a crawl," Wegner said. "Instead of emails from potential adopters, we are getting email after email from people who want to surrender their pets or need placement for a stray they rescued running loose in their neighborhood.
"Calls to help capture strays are increasing too," she said. "People think their best option is to set their rabbit 'free,' not realizing rabbits cannot survive in the wild. Rabbits are being hit by cars, starving, and are falling victim to predators. We've seen an uptick of stray rabbits arriving at shelters with health issues and injuries. It's illegal to set any pet free. Yet people are moving on, both figuratively and literally."
Wegner said surrenders seem to be attributed to rising costs of living, the veterinarian care crisis with fewer vets and shorter hours, a housing shortage that allows landlords the ability to be selective about allowing pets, and evictions.
People are also not fixing their rabbits. "These are bunnies from Craigslist, backyard breeders, flea markets and county fairs," Wegner said. "Breeders mislead the public by saying that rabbits are easy and cuddly pets. And they are not. Rabbits are complex, delightful, fragile, joyful and as much work, expense and commitment as a dog or a cat."
"Once fixed, rabbits are easier to litter box train than a cat while unfixed rabbits typically will not use a litter box," she said. "Unfortunately, low cost spay/neuter is hard to find and vets charge several hundred dollars at a minimum for surgery. Suddenly their free or inexpensive bunny is unaffordable. Less than 5 percent of surrender requests are for fixed rabbits."
Wegner said people who aren't sure they're ready for a commitment can foster rabbits.
"With enough notice, our network of volunteers can assist with vacations and busy schedules, all while your family helps a rabbit in need until they find their forever home," Wegner said.
For more information, go to https://eastbayrabbit.org.