Real Bunnies Don't Make Good Easter Gifts, Officials Advise

Chocolate rabbits make good seasonal gifts, but real-life bunnies require serious care, according to animal care experts

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    County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control
    Rabbits named Bob Dylan, left, and Maggie Mae live at the Downey Animal Care Center after having been abandoned by their owners. Los Angeles County animal shelters experienced an influx of unwanted rabbits after Easter last year. They’re asking celebrants to stick with chocolate bunnies this year and only bring a real rabbit home if they’re certain they can take on the responsibility.

    As Angelenos plan Easter and spring-time celebrations, animal shelter officials are advising celebrants to fill baskets with chocolate bunnies – not real-life rabbits.

    Giving furry, twitchy-nosed rabbits as seasonal gifts can be bad for the bunnies who get abandoned and for families surprised by the amount of care the pets require, according to the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

    Rescued Rabbit in Happy Home After Being Abandoned

    [LA] Rescued Rabbit in Happy Home After Being Abandoned
    "Maybelline" the bunny was plucked from her mother at too young an age, and put up for sale illegally on the streets of Downtown LA. An animal trafficker abandoned the tiny bunny last summer, but now she is thriving in a loving home. Ana Garcia reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 8, 2013. (Published Tuesday, June 25, 2013)

    The department is encouraging families who really want to bring home a bunny to adopt one of the many homeless rabbits at County Animal Care Centers.

    In 2012, the county's Animal Care Centers experienced an influx of abandoned rabbits in the week following Easter. Thirty rabbits were brought into the county shelters -- an unusually large number for one week's time, said Evelina Villa, spokeswoman for the department.

    Despite Numerous Arrests, Animal Trafficker Continues to Operate

    [LA] Despite Numerous Arrests, Animal Trafficker Continues to Operate
    Despite signs warning against the illegal sale of animals on Los Angeles streets, there are still countless bunnies, turtles, and other animals for sale. Police say Juan Mena is the ringleader of the animal trafficking in the Fashion District, and even though he has been arrested multiple times, he still continues to operate. Ana Garcia reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2012. (Published Monday, Dec. 3, 2012)

    "People get caught up in the novelty of a live rabbit as an Easter gift, and they don’t really think about the long-term commitment," Villa said.

    Rabbits, which live for an average of 10 years, require as much attention as dogs and cats, she said.

    "They are animals that need to be socialized. The rabbit does need to spend time outside the cage," said Villa, who added that some rabbits enjoy playing with other animals in addition to people.

    Rabbits also require a "bunny-proof" environment and veterinary care, according to a PetCo blog post.

    "Spaying or neutering is highly recommended in order to reduce or eliminate marking issues. It also makes for a healthier and friendlier rabbit," according to the post.

    Rabbits are available for purchase at some pet stores and breeders and for adoption at shelters and rescue centers.

    They are also sold illegally in places such as Santee Alley in Downtown Los Angeles, a topic that has been the focus of an NBC4 investigation. NBC4's Ana Garcia exposed the problem in August 2012 and found that vendors were illegally selling unhealthy rabbits and other frail animals.

    If a person is interested in having a rabbit as a pet, Villa recommends adopting a rabbit. Currently, there are 69 rabbits living in County of Los Angeles animal shelters.

    Considering that high number, the shelters are holding an ongoing adoption promotion for the spring season, Villa said.

    For $25, a rabbit had be adopted, spayed or neutered and implanted with a microchip at one of the county's six shelters.

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